Be of good cheer

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)

33 I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.  John 16:33 (CEV)

What the heck is going on? Our country seems determined to destroy itself from the inside, terrorists are attacking police and running down innocent by-standers world-wide, while nations threaten each other with nuclear attack.

How is it possible to be of good cheer or have peace in our hearts?

No matter which Bible version you prefer, those words from the Gospel of John (above) seem much easier said than done. In the midst of such suffering and evil as we see today, how are we to “cheer up” and have peace?

I’ve been praying over this verse and have come to the conclusion that the answer is in the last five words, “I have defeated/overcome the world.” Peace of heart and mind can only be found by placing complete trust in the speaker of those words, Jesus Christ.

spiritual-warChristian brothers and sisters, our mission in the spiritual warfare raging around us is to be of good cheer, placing our complete trust in our Savior, so that we may demonstrate to those around us the peace available to all in the midst of tribulation.

When confusion and panic abound, remember another familiar quote from Our Savior and “Fear not.”

 

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Buttons or Bugs, Wait and See!

I have worn corrective lenses for fairly severe near-sightedness since I was in grade school, but I consider myopia a gift;  every morning the world is softly out of focus, allowing me to put off facing sharp-edged reality until I’m fully awake.

MP900314057The other morning when I stepped into my bathroom before putting on my glasses, I spotted a big black bug on the floor. Now, I have a live and let live attitude to insects in their own environment, but I’m zero-tolerance all the way when they enter my territory, so I promptly whacked it with my slipper.

When I bent down to scoop up the remains with a tissue, the floor came into focus and I realized this ‘bug’ was actually a small black button, an uncommon oval-shaped one which had come off my new shirt.

Since our vision of the future is unclear, when we see something approaching from a distance our first reaction is often fear. It’s small and dark, it must be a nasty bug! Only when we are close enough to focus clearly do we realize that what we had feared actually fulfilled a need or blessed us in some other way.  Just as finding that button meant I did not have to discard a favorite shirt or replace all its buttons.

Frequently, a clear perspective is only achieved by looking behind us. Only then can we see how our efforts of avoidance actually delayed our good fortune. Like a toddler bobbing and weaving with lips clamped shut to evade a spoonful of healing medicine, we prolong our discomfort by fearing what we do not yet understand. How much wiser it is to wait calmly and see what comes into focus.

When we fear something indistinct looming on the horizon, we need to remember that our loving Lord has perfect vision and knows what is best for us.oval button

Sometimes it’s bugs and sometimes it’s buttons.

 

[Original post August 18, 2014]

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What’s Your Coefficient of Restitution?

One of my friends has been having an unusually long run of bad luck, but no matter what blows knock her down, she always bounces back to her usual, optimistic self.  I believe her strong faith plays a role in her rapid recovery. Thinking of how she “bounces back” brought to mind a term I learned in my high school Physics class. The phrase “coefficient of restitution” has stuck in my head all these years more for its lovely mouthful of syllables than for the physical property it expresses.


The coefficient of restitution  is a number which indicates how much kinetic energy (energy of motion) remains after a collision of two objects.

In simplest terms, if an object has a high coefficient of restitution (C of R) it will bounce back when thrown against a hard surface, retaining its original shape, while something with a very low C of R tends to go “splat!”

An object’s C of R is determined by the material from which it is made.  Steel has a high C of R and mashed potatoes don’t.  It is not a matter of positive thinking or a lack of concentration which makes the difference. So, why do some people, like my friend, seem to bounce back repeatedly from the hard impacts of  life, while others fall apart like a spoonful of soggy spuds at the first knock?

While all humans share the same basic physical make-up, we have more than physical properties. There are emotional and spiritual components, as well.

I believe it is the spiritual component which determines a person’s coefficient of restitution.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose”

Faith in a God of love, as described in Romans 8:28 (above) gives one the resilience needed to bounce back from the assaults and insults of this world, again and again.

[Original Post 

 

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Growing Old Gracefully

I was reading a commentary about the journey through middle-age the other day and got stuck, as I tend to do, contemplating the concept of middle-age being the half-way point of life.

I like to think of myself as approaching middle-age, even though the odds of my having as many years ahead as I have behind me are, well… not good.

When I was under twenty years old,  I thought anyone over thirty was middle-aged. In my thirties, middle-age had shifted to anyone over forty. This phenomenon has continued until now, amazingly, middle-age begins with whatever decade I have not yet reached.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Although my concept of the middle section appears to be adjustable, three distinct stages of life are generally accepted; youth, middle-age, and elderly.

Just as there are three developmental trimesters from conception to birth preparing a person for life outside the womb, there are three trimesters of life in this world preparing us for Heaven. During the three stages we grow physically stronger during the first, more capable and productive during the middle, and gradually more enfeebled in the last, as we release our hold on our physical bodies.

Looked at from a spiritual perspective, the Christian’s born again experience could be considered a spiritual conception when the soul begins its journey of preparation for eternal life in heaven. Our spiritual development, in every stage of life, should show a steady increase in spiritual understanding, wisdom, and increased reliance on God.

Although I’m reluctant to be classified as a woman past her prime, on the spiritual track I am eagerly anticipating maturity.

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Happiness is a Hula Hoop

MP900431788When was the last time you treated your hips to the gentle caress of a hula hoop?  If it’s been more than a few years, you may be under the misapprehension, as I was, that using this classic toy is like a riding a bicycle – you never forget how.

I’d read about a new exercise class using weighted hula hoops. It sounded like fun, so I decided to buy myself a hoop and get in on the action.

I’d had some success with the hula hoop game on my Wii Fit video exercise system and fully expected the skillful technique I had as a child to come back to me quickly. I’d never forgotten how to ride a bicycle, after all.

Well, my mind may have remembered, but my hips seemed to have developed amnesia.

I have a theory about past accomplishments: I can still do anything I have ever done…until I try and fail.  In my mind I was still the schoolyard hula hoop champ, until a week ago when I pulled that plastic circle over my head, gave it a spin, and caused my sons to collapse in hysterics at my wildly gyrating hips as I failed, time and again, to keep the toy spinning around my middle.

Eventually, through dogged persistence, I was able to keep the thing going long enough to get a workout, but the experience was eye-opening. For one thing, I hadn’t realized how much flexibility I’d  lost over the years. Hopefully, I will get some of that back by exercising. The second, and greater, lesson was to always be aware of how easy it can be to lose one’s gifts, if one fails to exercise them.

It’s been said that if you want to feel a certain way,  you should act as if you already do. The deed can come before the motivation and even create it. Could it be that exercising spiritual gifts could not only keep a person from losing them (like flexibility and skill with the hula hoop), but might actually help us to acquire them in the first place?

I sometimes have difficulty feeling a particular fruit of the Spirit, but perhaps the act needs to come first. I think I’ve got another exercise to add to my regimen. Wish me luck!

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Do you feel like a weak link?

There was once a TV game show called The Weakest Link. On the show, the first contestants to get a wrong answer were eliminated and labeled the weakest link, implying that a weak link is useless.

It is my contention that even a weak link is still vital to the chain, as long as it doesn’t break away from the others.

I was reminhuman chainded of this by recent news from Florida of the rescue of a family in danger of drowning in a rip tide. When a child got into trouble, individual family members attempted rescue, one by one, only to get caught in the same strong current, but when the onlookers joined hands to form a human chain, the family was rescued.

What an impressive illustration of the impact even the weakest of us can have when we pull together toward a common goal.

No matter how strong the pull of the evil forces in today’s world, if Christians join hands in unity, who knows how many souls may be rescued from destruction?

 

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When to resist

If you spend any time on social media, you can’t avoid the hashtag #RESIST, the slogan of the people who are unwilling to accept the results of our country’s election and the peaceful transfer of power. Those in this movement include opportunists, anarchists, terrorists, and other malcontents eager for attention. However, there are also sincere people, even some Christians, among the throngs. It is this latter group, the sincere folks who simply disagree with the conservative doctrine of the current administration and its followers, to whom I write today.

The Bible gives us clear direction as to when it is our duty to obey those God places in positions of authority over us and when it is our Christian responsibility to #Resist.

Titus 3:1-8 1Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!

It is the right and duty of good people to speak out and make our opinions and values known, but only when our authorities go against God’s laws are we to rebel and resist obeying the laws of our land.

 

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I lift up my eyes to The Hill?

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. – Psalm 121 (NIV}

It is generally accepted that the familiar words of Psalm 121 were written by King David, but there is some difference of opinion among Bible scholars as to the Psalm’s setting. Some say it is the field of battle and some believe it refers to dangers faced by travelers at the time.

Whether this verse is a cry from a soldier in combat hoping for reinforcements to appear on the horizon,memorial day or from a vulnerable traveler scanning the high ground in fear of being attacked by brigands, the emphasis is on the source of help, “My help comes from the LORD.”

Although situations have changed from Old Testament days, believers are still in peril as we go through cultural and spiritual battles.

Many believers are tempted to look to the government to save us, but pinning one’s hopes on the politicians in Washington D.C., a certain party or candidate, is doomed to disappointment.  While it is good for Christians to be involved and politically active, it is vitally important to remember where our focus should be, individually and as a nation; OUR HELP COMES FROM THE LORD.

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Created Equal

In a few days we will celebrate the birth of our nation, Independence Day, with parades, picnics,  fireworks, and all the usual Fourth of July activities.  It is appropriate at this time to take a look at our founding documents.

When I went to school, back when we studied real educational subjects, such as history, we were obliged to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One phrase from the second paragraph in the Preamble comes easily to mind, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

While the idea of a Creator has lost favor with quite a few Americans, many still cling to the idea that we are guaranteed EQUALITY and HAPPINESS by this document.

I think it is important to clarify: we are created equally worthy by God, but our government can only guarantee equality of opportunity under our laws. It is not possible to legislate equal circumstances or abilities. Pursuit of happiness is to remain unfettered, but the outcome cannot be guaranteed.

People are born with widely different physical and mental abilities in a multitude of circumstances. This is a fact which doesn’t come under the purview of government regulation. Politicians who attempt to create equality in these areas are doomed to failure and frustration.

Perhaps it is time for all citizens to accept the unchangeable facts of life, accept our innate differences, and take responsibility for our own pursuit of happiness, within the boundaries of our individual circumstances.

God gives us Life, the government promises Liberty, but the pursuit of Happiness is up to us.

Have a blessed Fourth!

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Brothers and sisters, let us cast a spell…

Brothers and Sisters, Let Us Cast a SpellNon-believers frequently refer to religion as mere superstition, an attempt by lesser mortals to attempt to explain and control a random and capricious universe. Setting aside the condescension and blasphemy inherent in that view, I have to admit that, like most people, I have a streak of superstition.

The success of the Harry Potter books demonstrates how attractive magical thinking is to most of us and this tendency can sometimes influence our attitude toward God and prayer.

When reciting a “ritual” prayer, I sometimes wonder if I am I praying from my heart or merely trying to manipulate God with special “magical” words.

In my personal prayer life I like to use the Disciple’s Prayer as a pattern; acknowledging God as my Father, seeking His will, asking for provision and forgiveness, etc.  Using a pattern while tailoring it to my unique concerns and situations keeps my prayers from becoming rote recitations.

However, since my life is fairly consistent, my pattern prayer has become almost a ritual in itself. The other night when I fell into bed, exhausted from a trying day, and merely mumbled a hurried, “Thank you, Lord, your will be done,” I felt strangely uneasy. I worried that by not mentioning the usual people and issues, at the usual time and in the usual way, I was somehow exposing them to harm by failing to cover them with my prayer. I was mistaking the power of my praying words for the omnipotence of the One to whom I prayed.

We are admonished to pray without ceasing, of course, but that is not because God will forget about us if we fail to nag Him. At least as I see it, unceasing prayer is an attitude of mind where one communicates with the Lord constantly, acknowledging His presence and awareness of our every thought and feeling; it’s a communing spirit.

Memorized prayers can help us to feel closer to God and get the conversation going when our own words fail us, but if we begin to feel the power of prayer comes from us or the words we say, we have moved away from God and His infinite power and love.

In the turmoil of today, sharing our concerns with our Heavenly Father gives us peace of mind and strengthens our confidence that God knows what is going on. He will take care of everything in His way and in His time.

[Original version posted June 2010]

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