The Challenge of Small Things

My devotional reading this morning reminded me that we can grow through the challenge of the smallest circumstances in our lives.

It is small things that, just because of their smallness, distress and overset us. I mean the weight of daily care, which in their small details of personal expenditure, and in the careful routine of a household, and in the rearing of children, and in the society of friends, and in the outside duty, and in private affairs, singly and separately is sufficiently burdensome; but altogether, and on one set of shoulders, is sometimes felt to be more than the strength can bear. Those anxious lives, tempted to be fretful, and hasty, and self-important, and fussed with their incessant activities, may, if rightly interpreted, and manfully grasped, settle down into round and sunny centres of regular, and peaceful and fruitful activities. Where there is prayer, there is peace; and God, who makes every duty possible, knows, helps, and cares. Anthony W. Thorold

Anthony Thorold (1825-1895) was an Anglican Bishop of Winchester. For more of his quotes see:

More on Fruit of the Spirit

When Things are Unclear– Trust God

Two Quotes on the Sacrificial Life

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Can You Do This?

“Use thy utmost endeavor to attain such a disposition of spirit that thou mayest become one with Me, and thy will may become so entirely conformed to My all-perfect will, that not only shalt thou never desire that which is evil, but not even that which is good, if it not be according to My will;  so that whatsoever shall befall thee in this earthly life, from whatsoever quarter it may come, whether in things temporal or things spiritual, nothing shall ever disturb thy peace, or trouble thy quietness of spirit;  but thou shalt be established in a firm belief that I, thine omnipotent God, love thee with a dearer love and take of thee more watchful care than thou canst for thyself.”

St. Catharine of Siena

For more about doing God’s Wll see:

Fanning the Flame #6–Seeking God’s Will

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

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Make the World Better — Practice Charity

Our theme this month is twofold:  clarity and charity.  This quote is from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural speech, given near the end of the Civil War.  Sometimes it feels like we’re at war with each other these days — there is so little understanding between political parties, ethnic groups, even Christian denominations.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all practiced “charity” (which is defined as kind and tolerant behavior) toward others around us, even those with whom we disagree?  If you examine this quote closely, you’ll see it also has to do with clarity — the ability to see what God would have us do.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

God’s Victory Over Our Sin

“The way may at times seem dark, but light will arise, if thou trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.  That light may sometimes show hard things to be required, but do not be distressed if thy heart should rebel;  bring thy unwillingness and disobedience to Him, in the faith that He will give thee power to overcome, for He cannot fail.  ‘Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world,’ so keep close to Him, and the victory will be won.  But do not, I beseech thee, neglect anything that is required, for disobedience leads to darkness;  and do not reason or delay, but simply follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and He will guide thee into all peace.”

Elizabeth T. King

Sunday’s Coming

Good Friday is over.  The disciples are hiding, fearful.  Will they be arrested next?  And even if they aren’t what’s left for them?  Some of them have been following Jesus for years, and now he’s dead.  Their hopes are dashed.  No doubt they’re depressed, frustrated, maybe even angry.

In hindsight, we know that Sunday’s coming.  Sunday when Jesus will rise again.  Sunday when Jesus will conquer death itself.  Sunday when their experiences will begin to transform them into brave men who are willing to die for their Lord and His church.

Right now, all of us are in a sort of “Good Friday” place. We feel imprisoned in our homes.  We don’t know what’s coming next.  We’re afraid of getting sick, or making others sick.  We’re worried about our finances.  Like the disciples, we may be feeling all kinds of negative emotions.

Take heart, friends, because Sunday’s coming.  God’s promise is:

“… we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

We don’t know what that good is, but as Christians we do know we can trust Him. As Job said,

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Job 13:15

St. Paul’s trust in God was so complete that he could say:

“I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13

At some point this situation will end.  We’ll get through it one way or another, but only with God will we find true peace, acceptance and hope.  Keep trusting in Him.  Sunday’s coming.

 

 

 

 

Come Holy Spirit!

I came across the words to the hymn below in my devotional reading this morning. It was written by Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892), the younger brother of the more famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  He was educated at the Harvard Divinity School and served as a Unitarian pastor for many years.  It pleads for the rest and calm that can only be given by the Holy Spirit.

Do Not Worry?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6: 25-34

These verses have been coming up recently in my study.  First, we had a Sunday School lesson on them;  then they showed up again in a book I am reading about “respectable sins” (more about that in an upcoming post).  Yes, I am learning, worrying is a sin.  We may excuse it by saying, “that’s just how I am — I was born a worrywart!”  That certainly seems true of me.  We may even find it a bit admirable — worriers are often the best planners, and certainly God doesn’t want us to go through life oblivious to our needs and responsibilities.  At the core, however, worry betrays a lack of trust in God.  Jesus tells us in the verses above that we can rest assured that God cares for us, and our lives will work out, when we put His kingdom first.  Trust puts one foot forward at a time, day by day and resists feeling anxious about the future.

I also recently read about anxiety in a book about insomnia (didn’t I tell you God directs my reading?)  One suggestion given was, if you tend to worry and can’t sleep, set aside a “worry time” each day — maybe just 30 minutes.  Ask yourself what things are really bothering you, and then decide what you’ll do about it.  When the worry comes back, tell yourself, “I’ve already thought about that problem, and  I have a plan for dealing with it….. then put it out of your mind.  As a Christian, our “worry time” might be part of our hour of prayer.  Let God know what’s on your mind, and ask Him to help you resolve it.  Then ask for His peace about the situation, knowing He will give it to you.

Maybe, like me, you’re a natural worrier (because we all are, after all, natural sinners).  You can’t entirely avoid those worrisome thoughts;  but you can stop yourself from obsessing.  Turn them over to God.  Pray instead.

He loves you and so do !

Other posts about worry:

Who’s Got Your Back?

Growing Older

Afraid of all the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal–Book Review

 

A Prayer for the End of the Day

Grant to me above all things that can be desired, to rest in Thee, and in Thee to have my heart at peace.  Thou art the true peace of the heart, Thou its only rest;  out of Thee all things are hard and restless.  In this very peace, that is, in Thee, the One Chiefest Eternal Good, I will sleep and rest.

Thomas A Kempis

The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute –Book Review

A friend who belongs to another denomination loaned me this book.  Her church is encouraging reading it and having “book club discussions” around it, so I thought I would do a review.

I had mixed feelings as I read through this book.  The conclusions it comes to are certainly good:

  • Treat people as people, not objects
  • Get out of the box of justifying oneself by blaming others, feeling superior to others, or needing to look good to others all the time
  • Build strong relationships with those with whom we have conflicts
  • Teach and communicate, listen and learn
  • Remember you cannot change others until you change yourself
  • Take action to and do the things we feel drawn toward when we are thinking outside of our box of blaming, categorizing people, justifying ourselves, etc.

In following these behaviors, you will gain a heart of peace within yourself and will become peaceful toward others.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by [The Arbinger Institute]

All worthwhile stuff, right?  However, the right conclusions are reached for all the wrong reasons.  According to this book, when we treat others badly, this is an act of self-betrayal — implying that we are basically good people at heart.  WRONG!  We are basically sinful, and I don’t think we can rely upon our inner feelings to tell us what is the right thing to do.  We need God’s word for that.  The book then goes on to say when we betray ourselves, our behavior becomes “crooked.”  Again WRONG!  The correct word would be sinful.  We then need to justify ourselves by blaming, demonizing, etc.. The correct way to fix our “crooked” thinking is instead to  get outside of the box we have made and see people as people, not objects.  WRONG!  We cannot justify ourselves by any psychological maneuver or corrected thinking on our own — we need a Savior.

Conclusion:  I would not use this book, certainly not at my church, because it does not have a saintly worldview (I talked about this in a prior post).  What do others think?  Does the conclusion take precedence over the premises and reasoning?  I’d like to hear some other opinions.  I want to listen and learn.

 

Finally…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

In today’s world, it is so hard to follow the verse above.  We are bombarded with advertising and false news and crises that are happening all around the world.  I have found myself shaking my head over people hating each other because of a political stance.  Somehow, we need to be aware of all these things going on while staying away from the emotional angst that’s flying around us.  If we aren’t careful we’ll find ourselves in a big “to-do” over something that really doesn’t matter.

How do we keep our equilibrium when all this is going on?  How do we keep our environment sane?  My thought is to take this verse completely literally.  Keep your thoughts and your eyes on Jesus.  Go through this world being a peacemaker and the oil on troubled waters.  I know that this isn’t always possible, but as Paul says:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

So, keep your eyes on Jesus and follow the verse above.  Perhaps we can be the quiet, soothing voice among all screaming going on.