Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Situation Ethics and its Aftermaths!

"Where there is no vision, the people perish. But he that keeps the law, happy is he" (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).

I am a great believer in the Book of Proverbs. If there is one book that would wipe away situation ethics, it is surely this one. As I understand it, situation ethics is nothing more then getting, after demanding, our own way. As for the law, what law? We have managed to wipe out any vestige of personal law. Why, anyone can sue for the least reason now. I am amazed at the anthills of complaints that pile up and up and up.

A number of years ago I taught Proverbs to our preteens at church; I can only pray that at least one of these young souls learned that life comes with obligations, and it isn't to his or her eternal shame to act like it. I tried to impress upon these precious souls that these rules we all so abhor are actually fences to protect us, not barriers to our fun in life. As I said to a young fellow one day, if there were no rules on the road, we'd be road-kill.

"Let the wise listen and add to their learning" (Proverbs 1:5). First, we must shut out the noise! Mrs. Fanatic here has been on a campaign for years to get our minds into our quiet space and THINK. Ohoh, think? Turn off the television if you want a vision! And then the phones and the blackberries and the radios and the computers - anything that's a distraction, which is just about everything these daze.

Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: "At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say, 'Come out unto us.'" The world is knocking with clutter of mind and body. Trivial Pursuit is the name of today's game. We must decide for ourselves what is important, and then shut the door to the rubbish, which increases by the minute.

"Discretion will guard [us]" (Proverbs 2:11) so that we may divide the wheat from the chaff and the essential from the ever-increasing non-essentials.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Getting a Grip on Our Gripes

"Do everything without complaining or arguing" (Philippians 2:14).

“The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on" (Arabic Proverb). "Things cannot always go your way. Learn to accept in silence the minor aggravations, cultivate the gift of taciturnity and consume your own smoke with an extra draught of hard work, so that those about you may not be annoyed with the dust and soot of your complaints" (William Osler).

It's a long step from complainant to complaisance. The physician Dr. Edward Trudeau had tuberculosis and his approach was, "I have found that the great word is Acquiescence." Sophisticated folks have a hard time acquiescing to anything, much less everything.

Disraeli, when Prime Minister of England, was known to have an excellent memory. Someone asked him one day how he managed to remember all those names and faces. "When I meet a man whose name I cannot remember, I give myself two minutes; then if it is a hopeless case, I always say: `And how is the old complaint'?" And asking some people, "How are you?" can ruin our day. Disraeli is also quoted as having said, "Never complain and never explain." Self-justification fans just as many fires as criticisms and grievances.

A strap hanger is one who has a complaint of long-standing. The word strap has many definitions. Among many meanings, the noun means belt and the verb means beat. So we can wind up belting ourselves and beating others with complaints. If the complaint is long-standing, we then shoulder the heavy epithet of strap hanger. Proverbs 25:17 wisely teaches, "Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house--too much of you, and he will hate you." This is especially true if we go there with nothing but grievances. We'd best get a grip on our gripes!

Decisiveness, Positiveness and Stubborness

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!" (Joel 3:14 NKJV).

Many relationships falter on stubbornness. Graves have been dug with the words, "I'm right." I had a relative who was always right – absolutely, retroactively right, even when she wasn't there and you were! She also died at a young age, poor soul. Bless her, she spent her short, insecure life proving every nit-picking point. It would have been the end of her warped world to have been proven wrong. Perhaps definitions are in order here:

1. decisiveness;
2. positiveness; and
3. stubbornness.

Decisiveness is the ability to come to a decision, make an effective choice and mentally resolve a conflict. The indecisive person lives in constant fear of consequences and is unable to handle his problems efficiently. The decisive person takes responsibility for his or her actions. Mr. or Ms. Indecisive points to others as the source of his/her unhappiness, too.

Positiveness is an extension of decisiveness: the person takes a firm stand on a decision and rules out mistakes and doubts. This person is often accused of being stubborn when in effect he has simply made up his mind on a conviction he feels is legitimate after he has thoroughly researched and thought out the problem. This person's convictions are firm, confident and, to him, logical. Of course if the person is strong-willed and narrow-minded and ungenerous, then he will be accused of being stubborn, justly so at times, too.

But the stubborn person! These folks are right come high water, the Bible, the Encyclopedia, and 50 million lawyers to prove them wrong. This person resists, whether his or her reasons are valid or not. The adamant person can't stand to lose face; ergo, s/he is always right, which is ludicrous, for who can be always absolutely right? The last I checked, Jesus was/is the only perfect Person.

On the other hand, the healthily positive person is willing to listen to reason and change his/her mind. This person is willing to change thoughts and feelings if, upon reanalysis of the situation, basic convictions are not compromised. The really confident person will concede a point to common sense, whereas the obstinate person concedes nothing. This person does not possess an opinion – it possesses him/her! Unfortunately the "always-right" person dies by degrees from loneliness. After all, who wants to be proven wrong all the time?



Go to the Ant!

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-9).

The tiny ant teaches us many lessons:

1) It is self-motivated and highly industrialized. The ant doesn't need another to make sure it gets its work done.
2) It collects its food in the proper seasons; it is prudent.
3) It is fond of its young, and takes care of them.
4) It has foresight for others and shows kindness.
5) It works quietly without show and until the work is done. In this, it teaches us perseverance.
6) It works in cooperation and organization with others. In union there is indeed strength.
7) It keeps its home meticulously clean.
8) It knows its job and does it.
9) The ant has initiative, that wonderful virtue of resourcefulness that knows the how and when.

God is the God of nature, and it's amazing how even the smallest creatures can teach us such great lessons. We human beings can learn diligence, how to recognize opportunities, and individual initiative from the ant. "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me" (John 9:4). The foreseeing person is a foregoing person. Sometimes we have to forego, or sacrifice, a pleasure today so we can realize a goal tomorrow. This is true in both the spiritual and material realm.

Stephen Vincent Benet said: "The ant finds kingdoms in a foot of ground." Perhaps this says to us that, even in our small area of life, we can find our sphere of contentment! Each of us has our own job to do in our sphere, responsibilities which we can't hand over to others. Rest is a reward after we have done our job. Aldegonde, coadjutor of William of Orange, is said to have for a motto, "Repos aillerus," or "Rest elsewhere." If the farmer rested because it was cold or windy, when he should be sowing and plowing, few of us would eat.

"I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart" (Jerome K. Jerome). God does help those who help themselves but even the starving must walk to the table! Of course if they are crippled, we help them; otherwise, it's best to encourage others to help themselves. After major surgery, the doctor forces the patient to get up and walk. If the patient lay there until s/he felt like getting up, the person would never do so. Sometimes we must force ourselves to get going in life.

Not a Word of Reproach!

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

The father gave the son a kiss before his son said a word. It was given while the prodigal was still dirty and in rags; therefore, it was entirely unmerited. This first blessing was followed by many others. NOT A WORD OF REPROACH IS SPOKEN. How important this is for those of us who speak words of reproach to God's children because they may not do and speak as we do.

This is the story of our Father who runs to us while we are yet far away and when we are desperate after having tasted of the husks of life; when we are tired of searching for what is real and true. The son tells his father that he is not worthy but that does not stop the father from loving him and forgiving him and bringing out the best of what he has, to give to his precious son who has come home. Our Father runs to us and gives us His best--anyway! Can we engrave this bright verse on our sad hearts as a beacon light for those days when we feel that not even the Father loves us? When we feel we don't deserve anyone's love?

Herein we have:

1) A love that is quick-sighted: "He saw him a long way off.";
2) A love that is sympathetic: "He had compassion.";
3) A love that is eager to help: "He ran.";
4) A love that yields its all: "He fell on his neck.";
5) A love that delights to forgive: "He kissed him."

Herein we have:

1) Eyes of mercy: "His father saw him. . .";
2) A heart of mercy: "He had compassion.";
3) Feet of mercy: "He ran.";
4) Arms of mercy: "He threw his arms around him.";
5) Lips of mercy: "He kissed him."

Thank You, Father!

From Contentious To Content

"[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!

Strike or Stroke

"Our lips are our own: who calls us to account?" (Psalm 12:4 Moffatt); "Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul" (Job 7:11).

We can stroke or strike people with words. Job and his three friends are a striking example of not being stroked when Job so needed it. Job's friends meant well; they met and went to him, and even sat speechless for seven days (Job 2:1113). Later Job was to say to them in his desperation, "If only you would altogether be silent! For you that would be wisdom" (Job 13:5.)

Our lips are not our own. We are arrogant to even think that God has nothing to do with what we say. Actions may speak louder than words, but words are action's inspiration or incitement. Kindness is the Christian's rule of thoughts and words. In speaking our mind, unless it is the mind of Christ, we may prove to be mindless as well as thoughtless.

"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 12:36-37).

Considering the blasphemy and filth we now hear everywhere, we can assume that most people don’t realize or don't care that God holds us responsible for the consequences of our words every bit as much as our actions - perhaps even more so, for words are like the proverbial feathers that can't be found, once scattered.

Judas' "Greetings, Rabbi" (Matthew 26:49) branded him as a murderer and the worst kind of hypocrite and traitor. Judas broke trust with Jesus that fateful day with those two fateful words. Words are indeed deeds.

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.
Emily Dickinson.

The Noble Man and Woman

"But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands"(Isaiah 32:8); "If a man cleanses himself...he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Timothy 2:21). 

"Every noble life leaves its fiber interwoven forever in the work of the world" (Ruskin). We all know that certain person who has enriched our lives beyond any human measurement; that extraordinary person who has elevated our existence into his or her serene sphere and inspired us to be and to do our best. Years later, when confronted with a crisis, we think of the person and the trustworthy advice given in love, and it enables us to go on. If we are so fortunate to have been granted such a gift, let us thank God every day for that person. My extraordinary person was a teacher. 

Nobility is all about making the abrasions of life into sterling metal. "Noble metal" is a metal made of chemical elements that have outstanding resistance to oxidation, even at high temperatures.
Noble souls, though dust and heat,
Rise from disaster and defeat
The stronger;
And conscious still of the divine
Within them, lie on earth supine
No longer.
True nobility presupposes riches of everlasting quality such as virtue, tolerance, high standards and motivations, integrity, generosity, and graciousness. "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15).
"My heart is stirred by a noble theme..." (Psalm 45:1). What more noble theme can we have than Christ? We become what we behold and, by beholding Christ, we become gracious and lovely and noble, fit for earth and purified for heaven.

Seven Pillars for Wives

Several friends of ours have gotten divorces through the years. It surprised and dismayed us, for these seemed stable marriages built on the Rock. Instead, they crashed on the sharp rocks of contention and discontent that tore them and their children apart.
When I read Proverbs, the book in the Bible which I feel helps us to guide our lives with practical wisdom, I think about these couples, especially the ladies, and what verses might apply to their situations. Two in particular stand out: "The wise woman builds her house..." (Proverbs 14:1); "Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars" (Proverbs 9:1).
We women are social architects who build for the future, working in the present regardless of present fads. As I read about the seven pillars, it occurred to me that we wives and mothers build our house--and homes--on the seven pillars of:
1) LOVE, AGAPE LOVE THAT IS UNCONDITIONAL. We are willing to give whether we get back in return or not. We are wise enough to weigh in on God's scales, not the world's. Sometimes the scales are not in our favor. Jesus died because of unconditional love and scales weighted down with misunderstanding and injustice and even hate. It must grieve Him when we demand our so-called rights, even in the face of known responsibilities. The only right Jesus had was to die for us. What a thought this is for us when we get discouraged at the seeming inequalities of life.
2) FAITH, that grand power to believe without a doubt that God knows what He is doing, even if we don't at times. There are many days when we need this kind of faith. One author calls it turning our millstone into a milestone and our scars into stars. Jesus said to Peter and sometimes He says to us: "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand" (John 13:7). What enormous faith it takes to believe this, even when we are enduring while trying to be endearing!
3) GRATITUDE. A wise Anonymous said, "Gratitude is the memory of the heart." I believe this is one of the most important pillars for our home. At the wedding we take each other; unfortunately, after the wedding we take each other for granted. Appreciation helps to keep the love alive, and makes the road of life so much easier to travel, too. South has left this thought with us: "Look over the whole creation, and you shall see that the band, or cement, that holds together all the parts of this great and glorious fabric is gratitude." Surely it will structure our marriage.
4) SELF-RESPECT. This may seem a strange pillar, but we women need to believe we are good people, too. We especially need to know that God uses His time on valuable cloth only; why should He waste time on rags? Along with the men, we women are made in God's image. But assertiveness isn't the answer to our quest for rights. Jesus' sole description of Himself is in Matthew 11:29: "...I am gentle and humble in heart..." I try to remember this when I want to insist and persist with what I think are my rights. Another aspect of this pillar, I think we need to be assured that our career as a wife and mother deserves every bit as much respect and admiration as any other career.
5) PATIENCE. God cuts our cloth to fit His pattern. When we are anxious to run away from our responsibilities, it can help if we see Him carefully cutting and fitting us to His pattern--His purpose--for us. Especially in marriage He is daily cutting away our unsightly and unseemly strands. I have come to the conclusion after 48 years of marriage and children and grandchildren that this is exactly where our precious Father ties them all together finally!
6) HOPE IN AND FOR OUR FUTURE. Without hope we lose sight of our opportunities. Can we truly believe that God wants us to be successful? Every now and then I read Jeremiah 29:11: "For 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." So God Himself gives us hope! Hope is so important on those days that become a daze. It is one of the constructive emotions that we so need, along with love and trust. I feel that courage is a large component of hope, for often it takes determination and perseverance to hope for better days and years ahead in the midst of such trying circumstances and what seem like endless trivialities today.
7) SACRIFICE. Let's face it, life costs much in commitment, particularly in marriage. It's really a 100-100 proposition. Whoever said marriage is a 50-50 proposition wanted to leave the back door open. Another thing, we can't afford to allow IOUs to add up in the drawer of our minds, only to pull them out during stress times. We might try putting lots of our own IOUs into the drawer, and forgetting about anyone else's IOUs. Contentment is finally removing the IOUS from contentious!
Prayer: Father, thank You for abolishing our walls of hostility! (Ephesians 2:14.) You have given us the privilege of being women who build with you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN, by Reverend M. Lowry

I read this many years ago; it made sense to me then, and it still does. Forgive me, ladies, but I'm from the very old school that believes men and women are indeed very different, and we bring these different ways of thinking and doing to whatever our mission is in life. God arranged this! Personally, I'm happy to be a female and to have had the privilege of giving birth to five sons. I have watched with sadness as the roles of wife and mother have been denigrated to that of slavery. Yes, there were difficult days, I'm not going to lie about it, but the rewards have been huge! I truly believe we need an AA (Attitude Adjustment) on marriage and our roles as wives and mothers. Until I read this wonderful poem I had never seen these as rights, only duties. When I began to view our contributions as rights, life became much better!

The Rights of Women

The rights of women! What are they? The right to labor, love and pray;
The right to weep with those who weep, the right to wake when others sleep.
The right to dry the falling tear, the right to quell the rising fear,
The right to smooth the brow of care, and whisper comfort in despair.

The right to watch the parting breath, to sooth and cheer the bed of death;
The right when earthly hopes all fail, to point to that within the vail.
The right the wandered to reclaim, and win the lost from paths of shame;
The right to comfort and to bless the widows and the fatherless.  

The right the intellect to train and guide the soul to noble aim,
Teach it to rise above earth's toys, and wing its flight for heavenly joys.
The right to live for those we love, the right to die that love to prove;
The right to brighten earthly homes with pleasant smiles and gentle tones.

Are these thy rights? Then use them well, thy silent influence none can tell;
If these are thine, why ask for more? Thou hast enough to answer for.
Are these thy rights? Then, murmur not that woman's mission is thy lot!

Rev. M. Lowry

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Today! Anonymous

I woke up early today, excited over all I get to do before the clock strikes
midnight. I have responsibilities to fulfill today. I am important. My job is to
choose what kind of day I am going to have.

Today - I can complain because the weather is rainy

I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.

Today - I can feel sad that I don't have more money

I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste.

Today - I can grumble about my health

I can rejoice that I am alive.

Today - I can lament over all that my parents didn't give me when I was growing up

I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.

Today - I can cry because roses have thorns

I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

Today - I can mourn my lack of friends

I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

Today - I can whine because I have to go to work

I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.

Today - I can complain because I have to go to school

eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new tidbits of knowledge.
Today - I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework

I can feel honored because the Lord has provided shelter for my mind, body and soul.

Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor
who gets to do the shaping. What today will be like is up to me. I get to choose what kind of day I will have!

Have a Great Day ... Unless you have other plans!

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Painting - From: Jack Wilson and Kasha Linka

The Painting

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Once there was a Father and son who were very close and enjoyed adding valuable art pieces to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate.

The widowed, elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son's trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.

As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again.

Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holiday with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer.

On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, "I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you."

As the two began to talk, the solider told of how the man's son had told everyone of his, not to mention his father's, love of fine art. "I'm an artist," said the soldier, "and I want to give you this."

As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man's son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man's face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.

During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy's life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart. As the stories of his son's gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.

The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation! Unmindful of the story of the man's only son, but in his honor; those paintings would be sold at an auction. according to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift.

The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world's most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many would claim, "I have the greatest collection."

The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum's list. It was the painting of the man's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. "Who will open the bidding with $100?" he asked. Minutes passed. No one spoke.

From the back of the room came, "Who cares about that painting? It's just a picture of his son. Let's forget it and go on to the good stuff."

More voices echoed in agreement. "No, we have to sell this one first," replied the auctioneer. "Now, who will take the son?"

Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. "Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That's all I have. I knew the boy, so I'd like to have it. I have ten dollars."

"Will anyone go higher?" called the auctioneer. After more silence, the auctioneer said, "Going once, going twice. Gone."

The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, "Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!"

The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, "What do you mean it's over? We didn't come here for a picture of some old guy's son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what's going on here!."

The auctioneer replied, "It's very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son . . . gets it all."

Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same: the love of a Father, a Father whose greatest joy came from his Son, who went away and gave his life rescuing others. And because of that Father's love, whoever takes the Son gets it all.
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Three little trees and their dreams (Anonymous)

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they  wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure.  I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones.  I'll be the most beautiful treasure in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all.  I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God.  I will be the tallest tree in the world." 

Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong.  It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!" The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked  her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven.  But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me," he muttered. 

With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell. The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure, she was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..." 

 Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. "I wish I could make a cradle for him," her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world. One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth. One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong.

And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world. So next time you feel down because you didn't get what you want, just sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you.



Is anybody happier because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
This day is almost over and its toiling time is through;
Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you?

 Can you say tonight, in parting with the day
that's slipping fast,
That you helped a single brother of the
many that you passed?

Is a single heart rejoicing
over what you did or said?
Does a man whose hopes were fading
now with courage look ahead? 

Did you waste the day or lose it,
was it well or poorly spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness or
a scar of discontent?

As you close your eyes in slumber
do you think that God would say
You have earned one more tomorrow by the
work you did today? 

Edgar A. Guest

Fragments of Life

"Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted" (John 6:12b).

God is particular about our fragments, our bits and pieces and what we do with
them: fragments of time and opportunity, thoughts and actions. Jesus asked His
disciples to gather the broken pieces that represent what is left over from His
bounty. When God feeds us, He feasts us! He is able to do exceeding abundantly
above that which we ask, even. But He does not want us to waste the fragments
from His abundance.

Gathering fragments does not mean to stockpile. When the Israelites were in the
desert, they were told not to gather manna on the seventh day (Exodus 16:26).
They were to trust in their God that He would furnish their needs for that day,
also; that there was no need to hoard provisions when God had promised to
provide their daily bread.

With God little things assume great importance. He gives us all things to enjoy,
but He also is concerned about the cup of cold water that we give in His name;
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but He takes notice when a sparrow
falls. We think nothing of killing time, that precious substance that makes up
life, only to wish it back when the seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months and
years have suddenly gone and we are old and sorry for the wasted times and

The saddest waste of all is the wasted life which is epidemic today. God
surely weeps as He watches humankind destroy itself with drugs and pornography
and violence. Some of the most grievous words in God's Word are, "...The younger
son...squandered his wealth in wild living" (Luke 15:13). The parent who has
buried a child wasted from riotous living knows well how the little things make
or break us. "Let nothing be wasted," especially one for whom our beloved Jesus

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Still bearing fruit

"They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green..." (Psalm 92:14).

No one wants to get old. Disease becomes outright disease. This verse becomes a
blessed promise to those who keep faithful. We won't be spared getting old, but we will be spared becoming useless and fruitless and simply less. We may not do as much or as well as we did before. That doesn't matter; what is important is that our confidence does not fail. We can't help the years that slip away, but we are responsible for coming to our later years with the fruit of the Spirit so that we may stay "fresh and green" in our hearts.

If we prayed in our youth, "Teach us to number our days and recognize how few
they are; help us to spend them as we should" (Psalm 90:12 TLB), then we need
not fear the approaching forever. When young we collect; when old we recollect,
gratefully, we hope; when young we celebrate; when old we cerebrate.
"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation..." (Psalm 71:18); "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you" (Isaiah 46:4). One who has affectionately created will sustain. We cherish and defend that on which we have spent much time and love; how much more so our Author and Finisher.

As our physical powers diminish, our spiritual powers raise our hopes and give rise to an undaunted faith that our beloved Jesus returned to prepare us a room
because He loves us that much. He orders in love that we do not let our hearts be troubled, for He has counted our gray hairs and asks only that we trust Him always.

Out of the Cave

            "It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my
            fathers!" (1 Kings 19:4).
      This is a favorite chapter of mine because it gives us a glimpse of
      someone as human as we are. Here we have the great Elijah, sinking from
      triumph to despair. He is just as subject to human emotions as we are. Who
      of us has not said, "I have had enough of this!" But God doesn't answer
      Elijah’s prayer; instead, He sends an angel, not once but twice, to Elijah
      to feed him. When Elijah is strong again, he travels on to Horeb, and what
      does he do -- he hides in a cave!

      God isn't going to let him get away with that, either. "What are you doing
      here, Elijah, so far away from your duties? What are you doing here,
      Elijah, you of all my people who should have remained at your post? My
      past compassions to you should have strengthened and served you especially
      for a time such as this."

      We need to know that God understands when we cry out in exhaustion and
      heartache and despair. Just as He brought Elijah out of the cave, He will
      bring us out of the darkness of whatever cave we are in now into His light
      once again (Psalm 18:28). Elijah thought his labor was useless; that it
      had come to nothing. Those with the highest and holiest purposes are the
      very ones who experience such intense dejection and rejection. Elijah's
      heart withered at the thought that he had failed. So it is with us all who
      feel we have failed God, family and church because of mistakes and our
      humanity. But this chapter tells us that God isn’t going to let us get
      away with self-pity. We are all subject to depression but there is an
      angel to help us out of our cave, if we will believe it.

      God commands us to "be strong and of good courage" (Joshua 1:6). An
      anonymous saint said, "So, in the Lord's ministry, the nucleus of the
      Church was not found in the applauding multitudes on Olivet, but in the
      few faithful ones in the garden of Gethsemane." What a thought! When we
      feel we have had enough, let us be the faithful one in Gethsemane,
      kneeling with Jesus who set His face toward Jerusalem, realizing what He
      was about to endure (Luke 9:51b).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peace vs. piece!

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one
another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).

In his remarkable book, The Sermon on the Mount, Dr. Emmet Fox deals with our
forgiving those who hurt us. In the chapter, Resist Not Evil, he states,
"...When someone injures you, instead of seeking to get your own back or to
repay him in his own coin, you are to do the very opposite–you are to forgive
him, and set him free. No matter what the provocation may be, and no matter how
many times it is repeated, you are to do this. You are to loose him and let him
go, for thus only can you be freed yourselfthus only can you possess your own
soul. To return evil for evil, to answer violence with violence and hate with
hate, is to start a vicious circle to which there is no ending but the wearing
out of your own life and your brother's, too.

"Antagonize any situation, and you give it power against yourself; offer mental
nonresistance, and it crumbles away in front of you." Dr. Fox points out that
"the mere rehearsing in thought of any difficulty endows it with new life. Going
over old grievances mentally; thinking how badly someone acted at some time, for
instance, and recalling the details, has the effect of revivifying that which
was quietly expiring of neglect."

By mentally resisting what we feel is a bad circumstance, we give it power and
life and, in the process, deplete our own spiritual energies and, perhaps, even
our physical stamina. Resentment fosters self-pity which fosters inability to act
and react in a Christlike way. In our anger and frustration, we also are tempted
to give others "a piece of our mind" and, in the process, lose our own peace of

Carrying around that load of anger!

A teacher once told each of her students to bring a clear plastic bag and a sack
of potatoes to school. For every person they refuse to forgive in their life's
experience, they chose a potato, wrote on it the name and date, and put it in
the plastic bag. Some of their bags were quite heavy. They were then told to
carry this bag with them everywhere for one week, putting it beside their bed at
night, on the car seat when driving, next to their desk at work.

The hassle of lugging this around with them made it clear what a weight they
were carrying spiritually, and how they had to pay attention to it all the time
to not forget and keep leaving it in embarrassing places. Naturally, the
condition of the potatoes deteriorated to a nasty smelly slime. This was a great
metaphor for the price we pay for keeping our pain and heavy negativity.

Too often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, and it clearly
is for ourselves!


A Costly Handkerchief

I'm reposting this because I really love this idea of Christ taking our mistakes and weaving them into a useful and noble life.

“A lady once showed Ruskin a costly handkerchief on which a blot of ink had been
dropped. The handkerchief, she complained, was ruined; nothing was left but to
throw it away. Ruskin said nothing, but took the handkerchief away with him.
Shortly afterward the lady received it back, but so changed that she could
hardly believe that it was the original. Using the blot as the basis, he had
worked round it a beautiful and artistic design, changing what was valueless and
ruined into a thing of beauty and of joy. So Christ takes the blotted lives and
transforms them. He uses even the blots and makes them yield enduring lessons.
Sins which defiled and seemingly left the life in ruins, he makes to yield a
ministry of regeneration. It was the memory of the blots that drew from Paul his
praises of thanksgiving and adoration to Christ” (Anonymous).

Isn’t this such an endearing thought, that Christ takes our mistakes, our
done-on-purposes, the large and little blots that stain our souls, and weaves
them into a life of love and devotion to Him and His? When I look back on my
life and understand, as finally did Job, that my sins and motivations were/are
so odious, yet Christ forgives them, and threads them into a new pattern. He
takes my blots and changes them into a “thing of beauty and a joy forever.” Of
course it would be better had the blots not been there, but oh! the gratitude I
feel that they are forgiven, and that Christ strengthens me for a worthy

Thank You, wounded Christ!