Sunday, April 29, 2012

From Contentious To Content - Lopping off those IOUs!

"[Love] keeps no records of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13:5b NIV).

When we love we feel wonderful. Remember when you were "in love?" I do. It was such a creative and growing time. Then I got married and started keeping records. Bad!

In a booklet I wrote, Why NOT Divorce, I suggested ten commandments for keeping one's union intact:

1. List your spouse's good points only.

2. List your own negative contributions to the marriage.

3. Read God's word together, if at all possible. If your spouse will not join you in daily devotionals, then read and pray privately. Daily reading: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

4. Use your creative imagination to see yourself as loving your spouse. The moment a bad thought or image enters, pray to the Holy Spirit. And get busy!

5. Don't have the last word. Let God's Word be the last word--to yourself. If need be, write a rational and caring note during those times when you can't verbally communicate.

6. Forgive, as God has already forgiven us all.

7. Give thanks often to God for this person, and then give thanks to the person.

8. Don't discuss marital problems with "sympathetic" friends who you know thought the marriage to be a big mistake anyway. This can be the death knell.

9. Be grateful for this set of circumstances and see in this situation the opportunity for spiritual growth.

10. Make the first move, with whatever words are necessary. You can simply say, "I'm sorry," or "Please forgive me." Sometimes it works!

In the booklet I write about the IOU's--the records of wrongs--we accumulate and stuff in a drawer and pull out during our stress times. Instead of keeping track of our spouse's IOU's, we might try putting our own into the empty space: IOU for taking on the responsibility of a family; IOU for loving me enough to overlook my moods; IOU for letting me pursue my hobbies without question; IOU for absorbing financial burdens; IOU for being willing to stay home alone when I go on trips; IOU for being kind enough to leave me alone when I need that aloneness. Remember, love is taking the ious out of contentious and finally being content!

Believe me, the longer we love, the longer we live.

Unconditional Love!

I will love them freely ... (Hosea 14:4 NKJV).

Unconditional love! Sounds great, doesn’t it? To love in spite of instead of spite ... Unconditional! Who can do this? How can I love this person who has ripped my heart into tiny bits of hate and resentment? Oh yes, I read and reread that lovely passage from 1 Corinthians 13 when I feel the anger and hate welling up. I have even made a poster out of the NIV version of Verse 5: "[Love] keeps no record of wrongs" to keep me from dredging out the old woe-is-me’s in times of anger.

Imagine my surprise when I finally discovered--with our Good Shepherd's prodding and in spite of my plodding--that this is a choice we make. Indeed, we can decide to be pleasant or unpleasant when we wake in the morning. It's the old as-if principle: I'll act as if I truly love this person, and before I know it, I do! It sneaks up on us, thank God.

Years ago I read the following: "I love you today, where you are and as you are. You do not have to be anything but what you are for me to love you. I love you now; not sometime when you are worthy, but today when you may need love most. I will not withhold my love, or withdraw it. There are no strings on my love, no price. I will not force it upon you when you are not ready. It is just there, freely offered, with both hands. Take what you want today. The more you take, the more there is. It is good if you can return love; but if you cannot today, that is all right too. Love is its own joy. Bless me by letting me love you today" (Author Unknown). Wonderful!

There it is, unconditional, no strings attached, I love you as Jesus loves you. I love you because God first loved me. He loved me enough to forgive my sins, so how can I do less for you? Forgive me for not loving you! Forgive me for the wasted words and years when I could have held and upheld you and made both our lives easier. Love is so much easier, really. I mean the love that wants what is best for you and will help you with your life.

I quote:
I will love them freely.
God’s promise of forgiveness: We observe God’s acknowledgment or consideration of all the three points embraced in the supplication of the truly penitent. God healeth in four different ways, and each mode embraces all the others.
1. By a gracious pardon.
2. By a spiritual and effectual reformation, by enabling us to walk in newness of life, by making us holy, even as He is holy.
3. By removing judgments which sin brought upon the sufferer, whether nationally or individually.
4. By comforting. This mode of restoring health to the soul is one of Christ’s principal works. The Lord is very minute and distinct in marking every article in the penitent’s prayer. Ephraim not only besought mercy to have all his iniquity taken away, but also that He who took away all sin, should, at the same time, receive good gifts in his behalf. Jehovah, accordingly, does not only promise, “I will heal their backsliding,” but proceeds to say moreover, “I will love them freely.” This is the fundamental principle of Gospel truth. Ephraim gave a reason for his entire dependence, henceforth and for ever, upon the Lord, which was, “For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” We can do nothing on our part to obtain the mercy vouchsafed unto us; for God said, “I will love them freely.” It is out of man’s power to deserve God’s love. Another consideration must be borne in mind, not to incur God’s wrath again. (Moses Margoliouth, B. A.)

Now excuse me while I go bury the old heart at the foot of the Cross ...

Our Egypts

"And they took Joseph to Egypt..." (Genesis 37:28); "But the Lord was with Joseph there, too" (Genesis 39:21 TLB); "He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power" (Deuteronomy 4:37).

Our Egypts are our shocks in life. Imagine! Joseph's life was changed in the time it took his brothers to lift him out of the pit and sell him to the Ishmaelites. But as we read the story of Joseph, we discover that his Egypt became his salvation and the salvation of countless others, including those who sold him out. Life has a way of astonishing and appalling us with the unexpected. But God takes the unexpected and makes it His purpose, after all, as He did with Joseph who, years later, told the very ones who betrayed him, "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good..." (Genesis 50:20). What a glorious statement of faith and acceptance!

After Joseph got to Egypt things went very wrong there, too. As the bumper sticker says, "Stuff Happens." He landed in prison for saying "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). One would almost think that Murphy's Law #1 was written for Joseph, "No good deed goes unpunished." But the Lord was with Joseph there, too, in prison, where he had been put by his master after the master's wife lied about him. He became a powerful witness even in jail. Joseph could have complained much to Potiphar about the violation of his rights. Potiphar's wife wanted revenge so the criminal made Joseph the criminal. This happens in life to the best. But what a comfort to know that God is with us in our dungeons, and that finally we will be released: "He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound..." (Isaiah 61:1).

What is so wonder-filled about the life of Joseph is that, no matter where he was he kept his covenant with God, for Joseph knew that God would keep His covenant with him. Joseph had a remarkable faith when one considers all that happened to him. To add insult to injury the butler, who Joseph helped get released, forgot to mention him to Potiphar after promising to do so. Joseph's bitter cup was full but Joseph, through God's grace and gracefulness, never became bitter.

Another extraordinary facet of Joseph's spirit was his gentleness. When their father Jacob died, Joseph's brothers feared that Joseph would retaliate after all, now that he was gone. The brothers couldn't believe that such goodness existed. Joseph's character was much like that of Jesus.

Father, how we thank You that You lead us out of Egypt with Your Presence! Help us to remember that a prison can become a palace, if You are there with us, and that our Egypt is our salvation.


*Character is much better kept than recovered. Thomas Paine.

 *One can acquire everything in solitude ‑‑ except character.  Stendhal in Fragments, Christianity Today, November 22, 1993.

 *Will Rogers was known for his laughter, but he also knew how to weep. One day he was entertaining at the Milton H. Berry Institute in Los Angeles, a hospital that specialized in rehabilitating polio victims and people with broken backs and other extreme physical handicaps. Of course, Rogers had everybody laughing, even patients in really bad condition; but then he suddenly left the platform and went to the rest room. Milton Berry followed him to give him a towel; and when he opened the door, he saw Will Rogers leaning against the wall, sobbing like a child. He closed the door, and in a few minutes, Rogers appeared back on the platform, as jovial as before.

*If you want to learn what a person is really like, ask three questions: What makes him laugh? What makes him angry? What makes him weep? These are fairly good tests of character that are especially appropriate for Christian leaders. I hear people saying, "We need angry leaders today!" or "The time has come to practice militant Christianity!" Perhaps, but "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).

*What we need today is not anger but anguish, the kind of anguish that Moses displayed when he broke the two tablets of the law and then climbed the mountain to intercede for his people, or that Jesus displayed when He cleansed the temple and then wept over the city. The difference between anger and anguish is a broken heart. It's easy to get angry, especially at somebody else's sins; but it's not easy to look at sin, our own included, and weep over it. The Integrity Crisis by Warren W. Wiersbe, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.

*In great matters men show themselves as they wish to be seen, in small matter, as they are. Gamaliel Bradford, quoted in New Dictionary of Thoughts, edited by Tryon Edwards (Ferguson)

*A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world's torrents. Goethe

*When Oscar Wilde arrived for a visit to the U.S. in 1882, he was asked by customs officials if he had anything to declare. He replied: "Only my genius." Fifteen years later, alone and broken in prison, he reflected on his life of waste and excess. "I have been a spendthrift of my genius...I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character." Imprimis, Vol 20, #9.

*A number of years ago the Douglas Aircraft company was competing with Boeing to sell Eastern Airlines its first big jets. War hero Eddie Rickenbacker, the head of Eastern Airlines, reportedly told Donald Douglas that the specifications and claims made by Douglas's company for the DC8 were close to Boeing's on everything except noise suppression. Rickenbacker then gave Douglas one last chance to outpromise Boeing on this feature. After consulting with his engineers, Douglas reported that he didn't feel he could make that promise. Rickenbacker replied, "I know you can't, I just wanted to see if you were still honest." Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991.

*Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. Phillips Brooks.

*Character is not made in crisis‑‑it is only exhibited. Freeman.

*Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are. John Wooden, former coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team, quoted in Sanctity of Life, C. Swindoll, Word, 1990.

*Character is simply long habit continued. Plutarch.
*Only what we have wrought into our character during life can we take with us. Humboldt.

*Henry Wingblade used to say that Christian personality is hidden deep inside us. It is unseen, like the soup carried in a tureen high over a waiter's head. No one knows what's inside‑‑unless the waiter is bumped and he trips! Just so, people don't know what's inside us until we've been bumped. But if Christ is living inside, what spills out is the fruit of the Spirit. Carl Lundquist.

*W. Michael Blumenthal, chairman of Unisys, talks about the mistakes he made in hiring: In choosing people for top positions, you have to try to make sure they have a clear sense of what is right and wrong, a willingness to be truthful, the courage to say what they think and to do what they think is right, even if the politics militate against that. This is the quality that should really be at the top. I was too often impressed by the intelligence and substantive knowledge of an individual and did not always pay enough attention to the question of how honest, courageous and good a person the individual really was. Jerry Flint, in Forbes.

*We do not need more knowledge, we need more character! Calvin Coolidge.

*Character is what you are in the dark. D.L. Moody.

*Character is a byproduct; it is produced in the great manufacture of daily duty. Woodrow Wilson.

*“The gods had given me almost everything. But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease...Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensation. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the housetop. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.” Oscar Wilde, quoted by Wm. Barclay, Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians.

*The Presidency to this day rests more on the character of the person who inhabits the office than on anything else. The Founding Fathers designed it that way. It was their idea to find a man in America with a great character and let him invest a tradition and shape a national character. They found George Washington. He did his job splendidly. When he took the Presidency, he wrote: "I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent." Hugh Sidney, political columnist, in Time.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Participation - Cathy Vinson

Gethsemane offered several levels of participation for the Disciples.

Sit. This was all that was asked of the remaining eight disciples. The Lord asked them to sit while their Lord entered His anguish. "Sit here while I go over there to pray" (Mt 26:36).

Stay and watch. Closed in with His closest disciples, His condition began to become apparent..."He began to be sorrowful and troubled." His deepest feelings were expressed to them, mere men. To them, He said "Stay here and keep watch with Me" (Mt 26:38).

Watch and pray. In the heaviest, most ponderous moment, the call came for keenest alertness of spirit, not only to sit, not only to stay, but "watch and pray that you will not enter into temptation" (Mt 26:41).

Their moment had come to protect themselves from the coming danger. They slept and rested, leaving themselves open to the prey of denial and desertion (Mt 26:45).

What does He ask of us today? For us to sit? -- then we should sit...maybe watch the trees blow in the wind. A word may or may not come, but we have watched with Him.

"Which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to SEE or to HEAR?" (Jer 23:18) Let us at least stand to see or to hear whether a word comes or not. "Who has listened and heard His Word?" (Jer 23:18). Who has heard when the word comes?

Cathy Vinson

Thursday, April 26, 2012

If you feel unloved and unwanted, read this!


       somebody is very proud of you.

       somebody is thinking of you.

       somebody is caring about you.

       somebody misses you.

       somebody wants to talk to you.

       somebody wants to be with you.

       somebody hopes you aren't in trouble.

       somebody is thankful for the support you have provided.

       somebody wants to hold your hand.

       somebody hopes everything turns out all right.

       somebody wants you to be happy.

       somebody wants you to find him/her.

       somebody is celebrating your successes.

       somebody wants to give you a gift.

       somebody thinks that you ARE a gift.

       somebody hopes you're not too cold, or too hot.

       somebody wants to hug you.

       somebody loves you.

       somebody admires your strength.

       somebody is thinking of you and smiling.

       somebody wants to be your shoulder to cry on.

       somebody wants to go out with you and have a lot of fun.

       somebody thinks the world of you.

       somebody wants to protect you.

       somebody would do anything for you.

       somebody wants to be forgiven.

       somebody is grateful for your forgiveness.

       somebody wants to laugh with you.

       somebody remembers you and wishes that you were there.

       somebody is praising God for you.

       somebody needs to know that your love is unconditional.

       somebody values your advice.

       somebody wants to tell you how much they care.

       somebody wants to share their dreams with you.

       somebody wants to hold you in their arms.

       somebody wants YOU to hold them in your arms.

       somebody treasures your spirit.

       somebody wishes they could STOP time because of you.

       somebody praises God for your friendship and love.

       somebody can't wait to see you.

       somebody loves you for who you are.

       somebody loves the way you make them feel.

       somebody wants to be with you.

       somebody wants you to know they are there for you.

       somebody's glad that you're his/her friend.

       somebody wants to be your friend.

       somebody stayed up all night thinking about you.

       somebody is alive because of you.

       somebody is wishing that you noticed him/her.

       somebody wants to get to know you better.

       somebody wants to be near you.

       somebody misses your advice/guidance.

       somebody has faith in you.

       somebody trusts you.

       somebody needs you to send them this letter.

       somebody needs your support.

       somebody needs you to have faith in them.

       somebody will cry when they read this.

       somebody needs you to let them be your friend.

       somebody hears a song that reminds them of you.


Forgiveness - Rose Sweet

I have read many articles about forgiveness, needing both to give and receive it. These suggestions by Rose Sweet put it all together for me!
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
  • Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don't trust him to take care of matters.
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don't have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, "What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me." Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.
  • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That's okay.
  • We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
  • Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
  • Forgiveness is not based on others' actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
  • If they don't repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
  • We don't always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.
  • Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
  • We might have to forgive more than the divorce. Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.
  • We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we're in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to "hurry up" and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.
  • We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it's not true forgiveness — it's a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, "I want to forgive you, but right now I'm struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it."
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It's normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it's what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, "Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is."
  • Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.

Arthur Ashe, Soul of Grace

Arthur Ashe is one of my heroes. His autobiography Days of Grace (written with Arnold Rampersad) is one of the most stunning books I have ever had the privilege to read. There was one passage in particular that inspired me:

"I wish more of us would understand that our increasing isolation, no matter how much it seems to express pride and self-affirmation, is not the answer to our problems. Rather, the answer is a revival of our ancient commitment to God, who rules over all the peoples of the world and exalts no one over any other, and to the moral and spiritual values for which we were once legendary in America. We must reach out our hand in friendship and dignity both to those who would befriend us and those who would be our enemy. We must believe in the power of education. We must respect just laws. We must love ourselves, our old and our young, our women as well as our men.

"I see nothing inconsistent between being proud of oneself and one's ancestors and, at the same time, seeing oneself as first and foremost a member of the commonwealth of humanity, the commonwealth of all races and creeds. My potential is more than can be expressed within the bounds of my race or ethnic identity. My humanity, in common with all of God's children, gives the greatest flight to the full range of my possibilities. If I had one last wish, I would ask that all Americans could see themselves that way, past the barbed-wire fences of race and color. We are the weaker for these divisions, and the stronger when we transcend them."

Arthur Ashe, one of tennis' greatest players, went about doing good quietly, with dignity and hope. And this dear soul of grace died of AIDS at age 49 from a blood transfusion. Life is not fair sometimes.

Thank You, Father, for Arthur Ashe and for his reminder that we don't need to trumpet our faith and works. Like Jesus Himself, we need only go about doing good!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Luck of the Devils

"And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed..." (Joshua 6:18).

On a hazy night in '46
Satan met with his unholy tribe;
Now listen, you devils, he said with glee,
The entire world is about to transcribe.
They've invented a box they call TV;
Its shape is square, it has pictures and sound.
They practically kneel to its image;
Those fools think it's really profound!

Can you imagine what this means to us?
Why, we'll hardly need to lift our forks!
They don't know how slick we are -
Those dolts believe we're a bunch of dorks!
I can hardly believe this stroke of luck.
We'll load the Board of Directables;
We'll convince the world that evil is good
And have them think we're respectables.

Dear me, Satan purred, I can hardly wait
To twist and turn and rationalize;
National Enquirer will have to fold -
We'll steal the rights to sensationalize!
There's one big fly in my appointment, though -
Some folks are saying I started this!
How can they accuse me of such a deed?
I've always treasoned with a wily kiss.

Only the foolish would be so blatant;
Why, I even cringe at some of the trash;
Surely we don't need to throw it so hard...
We want them to fall, but not with a crash.
At first we'll stress the family virtues:
Honesty, faith, and all that stuff;
We'll give them new minds and hearts and goals
All pumped and primed with a lot of fluff.

And then we'll start undressing the angels;
Stress that nudity is artistic fare.
We'll make those goodies feel out of place.
Good heavens (or hell!), why be so square!
So do your worst, you little devils -
Make sure there's a box in every home.
We can't let slip this glorious chance
To write their names in our swelling tome!

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13).

Sullivan Ballou's letter to his wife, 1861

July the 14th, 1861

Washington DC

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.



"Where did you glean today?" (Ruth 2:19).

Where have we gleaned? From what and whose fields have we gathered our sustenance? If the field is sparse and rotten, we can't gather much that is good for us and, in turn, good for those who depend on us for their spiritual nourishment. Whose field is it, God's or Satan's? If we gather from Satan's field of the world, we have nothing but thorns and thistles; if it is God's field, we will gather lilies in a white field. "Even now [we] harvest the crop for eternal life" (John 4:36).

What have we gleaned? Will it give our spirit strength and hope and commitment or will our gleanings produce discouragement? Originally we were not supposed to know both good and evil: "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..." (Genesis 2:16). What bitter and tainted fruit has come from what we view and hear!

How have we gleaned? Is it with prayer that we will be worthy of our calling and our wage? Is it with immense gratitude and recognition of who our Husbandman is, and that it is He who has given us strength to learn and to earn? "But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:18).

Who have we gleaned from? "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Corinthians 1:20b). Jesus chose twelve unlearned men to start His revolution of love and not the learned of His day. It is Jesus we go to for true knowledge: "Seek first his kingdom...and all [else] will be given to you..." (Matthew 6:33).

Why have we gleaned? Is it for God's glory and honor? Is it to be of service to God's people in the field of the world? Blessed are the meek, the gentle, the nurturers, for they will reap the earth!

Code of Ethical Patient Behavior - Anonymous

Involvement with the patient's suffering might cause him to lose valuable scientific objectivity.

Your doctor leads a busy and trying life and requires all the gentleness and reassurance he can get.

Remember that your doctor has a professional reputation to uphold.

You must believe that your doctor has achieved a deep insight into the true nature of your illness, which transcends any mere permanent disability you may have experienced.

It is presumptuous to assume that such profound matters could be explained in terms that you would understand.

Though the surgery may not benefit you directly, the resulting research paper will surely be of widespread interest.

You should consider it a privilege to contribute, however modestly, to the well-being of physicians and other humanitarians.

It is sheer arrogance to contract illnesses that are beyond your means.

The patient-doctor relationship is a privileged one, and you have a sacred duty to protect him from exposure.

This will only cause him needless inconvenience and embarrassment.

Hoist By Our Own Petard

As my beloved readers know, I am a fan of ancient writers. It is my unquenchable belief that principles are set in stone, and these dear old authors knew their principles. I doubt they knew what political correctness was or, if they did, they had the courage to say with Luther, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Every generation tries to move the boundary stones, but there are a few that can’t be budged, for God won’t allow it.

Recently I have been reading certain writings by Thomas Watson, who died in 1686. Two outstanding treatises are "The Beatitudes, An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12," and "The Art of Divine Contentment, an Exposition of Philippians 4:11." Since we live in the Age of Discontent, I’d like to share a few of Thomas Watson’s gems from the one on contentment. Mr. Watson’s writings can be downloaded from Internet. What constantly amazes me is the universality and applicability of these authors’ writings. Human nature has remained the same since Adam and Eve decided they knew best. We still make decisions on that tremulous limb of knowledge without wisdom.

“Our first parents, clothed with the white robe of innocency in paradise, had not learned to be content; they had aspiring hearts, and thinking their human nature too low and home spun, would be crowned with the Deity, and ‘be as gods.’ Though they had the choice of all the trees of the garden, yet none would content them but the tree of knowledge which they supposed would have been as eye salve to have made them omniscient” (Watson, Contentment).

The operative words here are “though they had the choice of all the trees. . .” Imagine, all those beautiful, majestic trees laden with diverse fruits, and these two wanted the one tree God had told them they could not have, on penalty of death (every parent knows that the secret to a child’s quicker obedience is to tell the child not to do something, and his/her great desire will then be to want or to do the exact opposite). This sounds so much like our ads on TV. We must have the latest gadget, or else our life will be valueless, headless, heartless, etc., etc., etc. I recently heard an astute speaker say that advertising is here for the express purpose of making us discontent, and that was the exact word he used.

Remember when you woke up healthy and ready for whatever the day offered? Just turn on TV and listen to the ads for medicines, and see how well you feel after hearing about every ailment from head to toe, with a few new illnesses thrown in for shock effect. My husband and I are among the aged now, and we laugh, literally, at the side effects of these new medicines that are supposed to make us young and vibrant again. Who can resist taking a medicine that gives you constipation and diarrhea at the same time--seriously, we actually heard that! The woman in the gospel who spent "all her living upon the physicians" (Luke 8:43) would be spending it even faster today. That wonderful hymn “He Touched Me” has been renamed “Advertising Will Kill Me.”

But I digress. The apostle Paul had "learned in every state to be content." We live in the state of Florida and during hurricane season we become discontented for a few months, praying that we will be spared the winds and water this year. This is when we should be content and grateful for the many months of beautiful weather. But, like the children in the marketplace, we groan. I imagine the folks in the Midwest states aren’t too happy during tornado season. We tease our son who lives in California, reminding him every chance we get about his four seasons, one being earthquakes. We had a minor one here in Florida recently so we took that teaser off the table.

“Care, when it is eccentric, either distrustful or distracting, is very dishonorable to God; it takes away his providence, as if he sat in heaven and minded not what became of things here below; like a man that makes a clock, and then leaves it to go for itself. Immoderate care takes the heart off from better things; and usually while we are thinking how we shall do to live, we forget how to die” (Watson, Contentment). Here Mr. Watson reminds us that we do a great dishonor to God Himself by not knowing--or indeed even caring--that He has the whole world in His capable hands.

Mr. Watson mentions Haman, the epitome of wickedness in the midst of much for which to be grateful. In Esther 3 we read about his perfidy. When I think of Haman I think of that saying, “Hoist by his own petard.” In building a gallows for Mordecai, he unwittingly built his own means of death. We would do well to remember this when we are tempted to take revenge into our own hands because we are discontented about this or that. Haman wasn’t content to do in Mordecai, he wanted to take out an entire nation while he was about his dastardly work. That should even things up! It is amazing to what lengths wounded pride will go. The man had everything and wanted more. “Justice is said to blindfold herself that she may hold the scales evenly, not knowing what has been put into each; but revenge shuts both eyes that it may see no scales at all. What monstrous disproportion between the offence and the penalty, to avenge a small personal affront received from one Jew by ‘causing to perish in one day all Jews, old and young’!” (Anonymous).

Following are a few choice quotes from “The Art of Divine Contentment, an Exposition of Philippians 4:11”:

“A contented spirit is like a watch: though you carry it up and down with you yet the spring of it is not shaken, nor the wheels out of order, but the watch keeps its perfect motion: so it was with St. Paul, though God carried him into various conditions, yet he was not lifted up with the one, nor cast down with the other; the spring of his heart was not broken, the wheels of his affections were not disordered, but kept their constant motion towards heaven; still content. The ship that lies at anchor may sometimes be a little shaken, but never sinks; flesh and blood may have its fears and disquiets, but grace doth check them.”

“Murmuring is nothing else but the scum which boils off from a discontented heart.”

“Contentment is a divine thing; it becomes ours, not by acquisition, but infusion; it is a slip taken off from the tree of life, and planted by the Spirit of God in the soul; it is a fruit that grows not in the garden of philosophy, but is of an heavenly birth; it is therefore very observable that contentment is joined with godliness, and goes in equipage.”

“Contentment is an intrinsical thing; it lies within a man; not in the bark, but the root. Contentment hath both its fountain and stream in the soul."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

“Mommy, I’m sad and I need your help.”

My best friend just shared something with me that I want to share with my readers. This lady is my role model in so many ways. She has four children who are epitomes of kindness (three of these children are in their teens). She and her husband are the best parents I know. In fact, they are the best people I know!

They were blessed with a late gift, a little fellow who is now three years old. Apparently today is one of those daze – up too early and not too happy with life, parents, siblings, Grammy, nothing! Mommy had put curtains up in his room and he awoke to a change he wasn’t happy about, and that may have started it. Finally he wasn’t even happy with himself, hence his plea to his mommy, with tears streaming down his face, “Mommy, I’m sad and I need your help.” Wow!

Imagine the maturity of this precious little guy admitting that he was sad, and admitting that he needed help! How many of our grown-up men admit this! What this tells me is 1) this little boy loves his mommy very much; 2) this little boy trusts his mommy with his heart.

Think about it – how many people would you say this to in your life? It would have to be a very best friend!

Sticks And Stones And Sore Jawbones

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:35-37 NIV).

Gossip is a great time-killer, for those who have it to kill. It is also a great people-killer. Oh, not outright. Sometimes it takes years for that titillating and scintillating bit of slander to take its toll. When the person finally dies of heartbreak, no one understands. Why should they? After all, who remembers the stone that was first thrown: the lie or innuendo that started the slow ripple and agonizing death of one's trust and love?

I have a friend whose marriage is a see-saw affair, and I was having rather uncharitable thoughts myself about a woman who acted my friend when with me, and then spoke with forked tongue when with other mutual friends of ours. One day Mary Fran and I delved into our subjects with our own forked tongues. Mary Fran is married to Chief Black Cloud, a nickname her sons gave their dad. Chief Black Cloud's fuse is quite short, and one of the older boys crowned his dad with that inglorious title after the boy left home and discovered that merrier hearts do exist in this vale of tears.

Mary Fran told me about her system to keep sanity and humor intact. Years before she had bought three silly-looking but marriage-saving statues, one with the word "Peace," another, "I Love You This Much" and the third one, "I'm Sorry." Depending on how much static is clogging the line of communication, that is how many statues that land on the bed that day. The "Goofies," as Mary Fran nicknamed them, have saved many an argumentable and lamentable day.

We discussed the red-flag words and phrases that cripple family relationships in particular. These are, among many, "You never..." and "You always..." These are sure-fire losing combinations! These flags are waved when the white flag of reconciliation is most needed: when mommy is sagging from a 28-hour day with hyper and ventilating kids; when daddy arrives home from the job breathing fire at his boss's or his spouse's incompetence, etc. For ten inexplicable reasons rolled into the one of human nature, this is when we slap each other with the always and the nevers, the you-shoulds and I-woulds: the negatives that have others feeling stupid. One man I know asks his wife and children how it feels to be uncoordinated whenever they have their few minor mishaps. Perhaps this is supposed to keep them all on their toes! They had a perfect chance to get even when the man almost lost his thumb in a tractor accident, but charity won out.

Mary Fran said there are days when she wants to retaliate in kind, but decided it is best to be kind." Years ago I read something that touched me deeply. The book was written by a Christian psychologist. He said it has been proven that the finest feeling follows the finest doing." It works for her. It should work for us all.

Gossip is verbal interest in the failings of others rather than their feelings. Our own faults should keep us busy enough praying to a forgiving and forgetting Father and offering prayers of thanksgiving that He so willingly overlooks our own many malpractices of tongue. "He who scatters the seeds of dissension and strife reaps in his own soul the deadly fruits. The very act of looking for evil in others develops evil in those who look" (Anonymous). Church members are especially astute at weeding out others' grubby little sins. There is nothing like one's own righteousness to highlight the other person's lack of it. "They who are free from the grosser sins, and even bear the outward show of sanctity, will often exalt themselves by detracting others under the pretence of zeal, whilst their real motive is love of evil-speaking" (Calvin).

A rattlesnake warns before he strikes. We don't bother to give warning; we strike in the very act of rattling and tattling. As Christians who look forward to the joys of eternal life, it is imperative that we resolve our differences while bound to earth. Paul was most concerned about this, for in his day Christians faced outside forces and they needed moral and physical stamina that could not be wasted on intra-family and intra-church squabbles. Besides, what positive effect could gossip, envy and all the debris that collects from an unconverted heart have on those "unconverted" who, in many instances back then as well as now, acted more Christian than those who claimed to be such?

Paul, ever concerned about his dear flock, admonished his Corinthian flock: "For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder" (2 Corinthians 12:20). One commentator lists eight specific evils of this church: strife, suspicion, spleen, selfishness, slander, scandal-mongering, super-egoism and sulkiness, and suggests that the serpent's hiss could still be heard at Corinth. Is it possible that the serpent's hiss is heard in our homes and churches? God forbid!

Today I can laugh at an incident that happened years ago when I went grocery shopping with the then only three of my eventual five sons. While going about the business of getting groceries for my family, with the help of my three little ones, a woman came up to me and announced that I was pregnant. “I have my knowledge on good authority," to quote Mrs. Busybody. I wasted valuable time trying to convince her that to my apparently limited knowledge I was not; that perhaps her informant had omniscient powers that I thought only God possessed. When I was finally able to return to the more important matter of grocery shopping, I still had not convinced her. If this lady had been stuck with my issues to raise and educate, then she would have had ample excuse for such concern, but I hardly knew her. But at that time our town was rather small!

There are three areas in which we can judge our tendency to gossip, and three tests by which we can judge the seriousness of our gossip. In the areas we have:

1) things;
2) people; and
3) ideas.

Which one of these is most appealing to us? I believe this is the right order, too. In our thing-oriented society, we often find ourselves discussing the externals of life and ways to obtain and maintain them. If we choose people, it should be to talk with them, not at them or about them. If we talk about ideas, then we discuss ideals, certainly something to be commended in this day of deteriorating ideas and ideals.

The three tests of gossip are:

1) is it true;
2) is it really necessary and constructive to the welfare of them and us to repeat this? and
3) is it done out of love.

If these three criteria--and it must be all three--can't be satisfied, then it is far better to bury the morsel six feet under our memories and leave the judging (which is what gossip is) to God, who long ago forgave and forgot.

One of my favorite verses is 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Surely saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way is unrighteousness. And for some of us, when we have been so unrighteous as to do in a friend or even an enemy, it is so difficult for us to grasp the concept of total forgiveness. If we are fortunate enough to have finely attuned consciences, we feel that we have done the ultimate; perhaps committed the unpardonable sin because of the consequences to that person. In dealing with the temptation and even the unfortunate fact of hanging another rumor on the grapevine, this verse can help. God does forgive! I doubt there is a person reading this who has not regretted something said in anger, frustration, resentment, haste or whatever. There are varying degrees of results of our lack of discretion and sins of the tongue, too. We drop the pebble of hate, hostility, innuendo, jealousy or wounded pride, and the ripple effect reaches to the very gates of heaven itself. Exactly where is the beginning of war, divorce, teenage rebellion, murder, suicide? Where do we find that feather of a word that has become a very sword? How grateful I am that God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of the sins of our tongues. But unfortunately, He cannot go around the world gathering up what our winds of words have scattered over the airwaves.

Unless we see the circumstances in another's life, we can cause that person immeasurable and irreparable injustice. For years I heard relatives criticize the wife of one of their own. The lady lived in another state, so I believed what was said about her. When she and her husband retired and we eventually got to know each other, I saw the side that apparently the rest of the family didn't take the time to investigate: a warm, gentle and kind lady with talents unrecognized and unappreciated except by her children. She was at our house one evening and made a cutting remark about herself. I told her that she had been listening too long to those who didn't even know her. It's wonderful how differently we feel when we get to know others, and to understand the sums of their sorrows and the divisions of their emotions. We give second thought before we express our objections to their abjections. And we are most fortunate if they grant us the same courtesy.

The wise men of the world tell us we should ventilate, but our wise God asks us to cooperate. We are admonished to "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14b). Job knew the vexation of thoughtless words that overwhelmed rather than healed: "How long will you torment me and crush me with words?" (Job 19:2). And these were his friends! Instead of the contrition they so diligently sought from Job who they were so sure deserved all he got, they ended up having to swallow a large dose of bad-tasting submission for their troubles. Instead of soothing the poor man's soul with words of peace, they vexed him to pieces with needless and harmful platitudes, well-meaning such as they were. Certainly Job would have agreed with the provident counsel of 1 Corinthians 4:5: "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." And poor Job would have deeply appreciated the following suggestion: "Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow" (2 Corinthians 2:7). Job devoutly wished that his friends would have judged his innocence rather than his presumed guilt, of which they readily informed him. “The only thing that can be said of them justly is that they were poorly equipped for their ministry of consolation. They were 'too white'; and the 'flower of life is red. ‘They lacked most where the need was greatest. The world perishes not of dark but of cold. The soul in its deep distress seeks not light but warmth, not counsel but understanding. If they had ever suffered any themselves, it might have been different" (Paul Scherer).

Martin Luther had much to say about our interpersonal relationships in his exegesis on the Sermon on the Mount. Luther was not a calm man so he no doubt had to deal with this in a vigorous way. Concerning Matthew 5:9 he states: "...The Lord here honors those who do their best to try to make peace, who try to settle ugly and involved issues, who endure squabbling and try to avoid and prevent war and bloodshed...he also gives help and counsel on the side of peace wherever he can..."

Luther's comment on those who gossip is less delicate: "These are really poisonous spiders that can suck out nothing but poison from a beautiful, lovely rose, ruining both the flower and the nectar, while a little bee sucks out nothing but honey, leaving the roses unharmed. That is the way people act. All they can notice about other people are the faults or impurities which they can denounce, but what is good about them they do not see. People have many virtues which the devil cannot destroy, yet he hides or disfigures them to make them invisible." In Luther's exegesis on Matthew 5:43-48, he gives this good advice: "My reply to someone else's hate or envy, slander or persecution should not be more hatred and persecution, slander and curses, but rather my love and help, my blessings and my prayers. For a Christian is the kind of man who knows no hatred or hostility against anyone at all, whose heart is neither angry nor vindictive, but only loving, mild, and helpful."

We must be acceptable in walk, work and word. Cuts from a knife heal, but we have no guarantee that cuts from our tongue will heal. I know a lady who shared a sad secret with me one day. She said she still remembers her mother saying to her when she was a child that she wasn't worth the powder to blow her up. That lady is 54 years old and still struggles with that terrible putdown, even though she is an accomplished and intelligent person. How tragic! We should beg God's forgiveness every night for every cruel word we say, especially within the family circle. With prayer love covers, but the wounded person is on guard from then on. We don't purposely stay around those who wittingly or unwittingly do harm to us, and this is precisely what happens, for none of us is immunized against the devilish venom in and of the tongue.

We should eagerly pursue the Love that forgives and forgets and goes forward in spite of great and small injuries. I read of a lady who managed to bury a grievous injustice by mentally digging a grave and quickly lowering into it the thing which wounded her unto a certain death if she didn't do something with it. She then covered it with white roses and forget-me-nots and quickly walked away. Finally she was able to sleep that sweet sleep of peace, and came to the point in her life where she couldn't even remember what had caused her such anguish. Oh! that we, too, could accept that grace of God which enables us to bury the hurts in our lives.

Just as important as what we say is how we say it. If a parent, particularly, has a naturally stentorian voice, he or she will do the child a tremendous favor if the effort is made to cultivate a gentle and persuasive tone. There is a great difference between a command in a shattering yell, and a "Please, will you," said quietly and lovingly. In fact, "The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded" (Ecclesiastes 9:17). This may seem a minor matter, but it is "the foxes--the little foxes--that spoil the vines" of love. Words especially can be sneaky foxes that come back to haunt us years later.

Dear Father, I beg forgiveness for all the uncharitable thoughts, words, and deeds of my life. Loose my tongue only in Your praise, never to hurt another heart. Give me insight to understand and to love. Let Your love make the difference so there will be no indifference to those in my life. Please, Lord, light my candle and enlighten my darkness. I thank You! Amen.