Disappointments

I will never forget how disappointed I was when I saw Plymouth Rock. My impression from history books was that it would be an outcropping, a large rock—like Gibraltar. But, it wasn’t. Our family walked over to it, looked down from the railing, and it was only a stone. To be fair, it’s a big stone and probably weighs a few tons. Stamped with 1620, it’s thought to be the same one the Pilgrims saw.

I was dumbfounded. This is it? Okay, let’s move on. Why even include this rock in the history books?

For an entirely different reason, I was disappointed with the site of Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn—the great battle between the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native American tribes against the Seventh Calvalry Regiment of the United States Army. Legend has it that only one army man survived. They were entirely outnumbered, and it was a sad day.

My disappointment, however, was in the signage. At the time of our visit, there were some fine granite monuments, detailing the happenings during the battle from sites that overlook the battlefield. A desolate, hilly place, one can easily picture the action.

One of these monuments divided the words as needed in order to fit its tapered shape: TR-OOPS and BESIE-GED were two of the hyphenating gems we noted, carved with care into the beautiful gray granite. My family was cracking up. I am sure General Custer felt worse than “oops” when he perceived the multitude surrounding him.

We quoted “Bessie-Jed” the remainder of our trip. It was funny but disappointing that the stone carver wasn’t more familiar with rules for syllable divisions. It’s amazing that the National Park Service actually put up those stones without correcting them. TR-OOPS, for sure!

All of us have been disappointed at one time or another—and not only with stones. We might be disappointed in people and circumstances.

My father used to sing a song, “There’s No Disappointment in Jesus.”*

“There’s no disappointment in Jesus, He’s more than my tongue can tell; His love is so sure and so steadfast, His friendship divine will not fail.  

Chorus: There’s no disappointment in Jesus, He’s all that He promised to be; His love and His care comfort me everywhere; He is no disappointment to me.”

When everything around us is crazy—as it is now—Jesus never changes. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This means that the same God who created the world, parted the Red Sea and dried the path, led His people with a column of fire and cloud, and then sent His Son for us is the same God we know today.

That same Jesus who healed the sick, raised the dead, read men’s thoughts, and cast out demons is with us today.

There is no disappointment in Jesus. He’s perfect. He loves you. He saves. He rescues. He’s a refuge for us. We can call out, and He actually translates our prayers to God. He acts as a lawyer, representing us to God. He cares.

I don’t know what you face today. Whatever it is, you can run to Jesus. There is no disappointment in Him.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

*by John C. Hallett, 1940.

The message in misspellings

Social media is full of misspelled memes.

My students, who are excellent texters, don’t use capital letters, periods, or correct spelling. I crack up at “thx sra keiser.” I understand it, and it’s okay—unless we’re doing Spanish verbs or vocabulary. If the word is not correct or recognizable, it gets marked wrong.

A bakery’s sign says, “Don’t forget to pick up bread with tongues.” Too funny!

Bible verses get misspelled, too. I saw several on social media today. One would think that the writers would double-check Scripture, but then again, maybe not. I remember reading about the scribes back in the first centuries who copied the Bible by hand. If they made a mistake, the whole page had to be destroyed and started it over. I can’t even imagine.

What do misspellings say about us? I am not sure, but here are some ideas:

  • Spelling is not my gift. I can understand this one, as I have known lots of brilliant people who don’t spell well. I advise young people to use spell check when they go to college. It will literally save their lives.
  • I never proofread. This person is in a hurry to get it said and whoosh out the door.
  • The way I spell isn’t important to me. I’m not sure why, but it seems this person’s crowd is growing exponentially.
  • Texting is the way I communicate, and good spelling isn’t needed, lol. Yes, just laugh out loud.

I’m afraid, though, misspellings, especially in memes, make the writer seem ignorant.

You and I know that’s not so. Maybe it was someone in a hurry, or he’s a texter.

But, the finished project isn’t excellence.

I went to a Christian university that pushed students towards excellence—in every part of their studies. It’s important to strive for it. No one will achieve perfection, though. I still misspell sometimes. Everyone who writes misses a key from time to time. I proofread and still sometimes miss them.

Where am I going with this?

We need to give folks the benefit of the doubt. When you see a mistake, recognize that you make mistakes, too. Be generous in your judgments—or don’t even make a judgment on mistakes.

The Bible says, in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves  and that real love thinketh no evil (Philippians 2:3; 1 Corinthians 13:5).

We all make errors. Everyone, even the best writer, makes spelling mistakes.

But, it goes much further. God loved us, knowing we were nothing better than sinners. He gave His Son to pay for our sins. That is ultimate love, the most amazing example of unselfishness. In order to give eternal life to His creation, guiltless Jesus paid for sin. Anyone—no matter what the sins committed—can go to heaven, if he accepts this amazing gift.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We often forget the next verse. It’s about the way Christians are supposed to act. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

The next time you notice a misspelling in a meme, smile and say to yourself, “Maybe he was in a hurry.”

And, don’t use your tongue to get bread. Please use the tongs.

Is God a legalist?

I deeply appreciate people who extend grace to others. Thankfully, I’ve met a lot of them in my life. They inspire me to do the same—to overlook faults and love people as they are.

God does that, too.

There was a time when I judged other Christians in my mind for their not seeing issues exactly as I saw them. To me, they were not insignificant issues. They were important biblical principles. Why didn’t others understand them as clearly as I did? Sounds prideful, doesn’t it? Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits (Romans 12:16). I clearly needed to be more of the same mind.

I love Romans 14 for many reasons. The instruction is about two issues in the early church. Some people thought they could eat meat offered to idols. After all, an idol is just a lifeless statue. Others felt pricks of conscience about eating meat that had been used in idol worship, and they became vegetarians in order to avoid this possibility all together. The other issue was about holy days, probably including the Sabbath. Some felt that all days were the same. Others were very concerned that the Sabbath and holy days be strictly kept in a prescribed way.

The ones with the greater consciences are called “weak brethren” and should be accomodated, while the stronger Christian needs to guard himself from judgmental, haughty behavior.

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:3, 5, 10-12).

There are several lessons, here. If a person is a Christian, God has received him, and his behavior is none of our business. He gives account of himself to God. It is for God to judge our fellow Christians, and for us to do right before Him, also.

Is God a legalist?

The definition of legalist is: “strict adherence … to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.”*

Does God want us to obey His law?

Absolutely.

Here are just a few of the verses about how God values obedience:

  • Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine (Exodus 19:5).
  • A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day (Deuteronomy 11:27).
  • And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).
  • But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you (Jeremiah 7:23).
  • Jesus said, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).

Sometimes, when God gave explicit instructions and people disobeyed, He struck them dead:

  • Nadab and Abihu, for offering “strange fire” in the Tabernacle (Leviticus 10:1-2)
  • Uzzah, for touching the ark of the covenant (1 Chronicles 13:10)
  • Korah, Dathan, and Abiram led a rebellion against Moses. God opened the ground and swallowed up them and their families. Then, fire from heaven consumed 250 men who had followed them. (Numbers 16:1-35).
  • Ananias and Sapphira agreed to keep back some money and lie to the apostles. They were struck dead one at a time after lying to Peter, who said they were actually lying to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:1-10).
  • For taking the Lord’s supper unworthily, some were sick, and many sleep—had died (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

There are countless examples of God extending mercy to those who deserved to suffer the consequences of their sin.

  • Moses and David were both murderers, yet God used them in a great way. What did God say about these two? And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend (Exodus 33:11). God said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will (Acts 13:22).
  • Saul was a persecutor of Christians before God called him to be an apostle, trained him, and used him (name changed to Paul) to start churches all over the Roman Empire.
  • Instead of stoning the woman caught in adultery, Jesus forgave her and told her to “Go and sin no more.”

Consider the mercy bestowed upon every person in the world, that Jesus would come and provide salvation, through his undeserved death, for anyone who believes.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

Is God a legalist?

I think not—and neither should we be.

*Dictionary.com.

Seven tips for beating boredom

Children say they’re bored. Teens say it. Adults often talk about boredom. Being quarantined hasn’t helped the problem, so let me offer some sincere advice for getting a life and squelching boredom.

Boredom: “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

The only time I’ve ever been bored in my life was when I was too sick to read. Now that, my friends, is boredom! Hours passed, and I wasn’t able to do anything at all. I always pity those who can’t read and write. How much they miss! For me, reading is the first thing I do in the morning and the last I do at night. I read a lot … and fast. I absorb a lot of useful, distracting, educational, and totally useless information each day. (I’m not proud of the useless stuff. But, you’ve been on social media, too….) Writing is akin to reading, except that it’s output instead of input—and it’s a lot harder to get right. I am constantly working on bettering my writing. (Please say you notice.)

“Being weary and restless” is a normal result of working and thinking. Boredom is getting to that point because of  “lack of interest.” Sad, indeed.

Let’s address the problem of “lack of interest” and make some practical applications and helps after that.

I fully believe that children, teens, and adults are bored because they have too much, not too little. Why do women go for “shopping therapy” when there’s not a thing they actually need? Why are children bored when they have two hundred toys in their room—and a back yard to play in? Why are teens bored, while they are constantly texting and chatting with friends? Why are men bored, even though they’re working all the time? I believe it’s because we aren’t content. We’re not engaged in real life.

The Apostle Paul spoke of contentment—while under house arrest and suffering depravations and cold. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11). But godliness with contentment is great gain. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:6, 8).

The author of Hebrews admonished: Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

So, how can we change into content, happy individuals who have something profitable to do and aren’t at a loss? Let me share seven principles that might help you.

  1. Less is more. This goes for almost any area in life. Less junk, food choices, furniture, clothing, less on one’s calendar, less activities for children, kitchen gadgets, etc. Less is better. When your parents were young, there simply was a different culture, yet they grew up knowing how to play and enjoy life. They read, hiked, biked, and traveled. They had actual—not virtual—friends with whom they laughed, talked, and visited. (They still have those same friends, by the way.) They knew how to put together old and new. Eclectic style was fine—and homey. They bought quality clothes but less of them. They understood how to mix and match. They weren’t minimalists, but they understood the value of having what you enjoy but not too much. That went for activities, too. Your parents didn’t overcommit themselves or you, and you got to grow up with family times, make memories, have free time to run around outside and be a child.
  2. Contentment can be learned. The Apostle Paul said so, and it’s true. If you’re not content now, with what you have at this moment, you’ll never be content. Contentment begins in the heart, with knowing Jesus. Once your heart is satisfied, you can begin the process of learning to be content in any situation.
  3. Teach your children alternatives to boredom. When a child says, “I’m bored,” he needs something to do—hands on and brain engaged. What would interest your child? Your artistic child might need paper and markers. Your musical child might need to be reminded to practice piano. Your mechanical child might enjoy getting out some Legos or K’nex. Read your children a book. Or, maybe they’d enjoy helping you in the kitchen or helping Daddy with a car repair or washing. Involve your children with you in life, and show them what to do when they’ve lost interest in other things.
  4. Unplug. You may have noticed I haven’t recommended handing your kids a tablet, putting on a movie, or uploading another video game. It’s absolutely fine to see a movie as a family or play clean video games sometimes, but the best way to learn contentment is to be away from gadgets for chunks of time each day. Really live. Really connect with others. Really enjoy doing normal life skills and work. And, for kids, really enjoy making up their own play.
  5. Learn thankfulness. If you really want to be content, you’ll have to learn to be thankful. Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20). In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Hebrews 13:15).
  6. Make a mental (or physical) list of possible activities you enjoy. When you’re bored, what can you do? Take a walk outside—with your phone or camera. Look for beauty. Read that book you haven’t gotten to. Write an encouraging note to someone. Organize meals for next week. Visit Aunt Polly. Bake brownies. I don’t know what makes you happy, but I’m sure you can come up with at least five or six options for when you’re feeling like you need to change things up—and not be bored. You could even make lists for your children of possibilities they may not have thought of.
  7. When you don’t know what to do, ask the Lord. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5). He will help you think of something that’s profitable.

God wants us to be content.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation (Psalm 68:19).

Encouragers I know and 7 ideas for being one

When I think of encouragers, the first people who come to mind probably don’t have any idea how much good they do. Let me introduce you to a few of them.

Barbara, Sandy, Lenora, and Diana post beautiful flowers and nature scenes on social media. Many of these include Bible verses or positive messages.

Ellen types a Bible verse and just leaves it there for people to think about.

Maribel posts a series of ladies’ Bible studies in Spanish, free and accessible.

Karen, Adam, and Holly are my funny friends. They put clean, wholesome comics, personal experiences, and hilarious faux pas out there for everyone to laugh at. Holly poses for selfies, where she dresses up as an animal, usually using only a change of hair and facial expression, displaying the inspiring animal photo beside her. Adam posts Far Side comics, which have something to do with real life at the moment. They’re wry humor, but more than once I’ve laughed out loud.

Tim, Jess, Barbara, Patti, and Jonathan write thoughtful, helpful, and edifying blogs. They always encourage me in some aspect of my walk with the Lord.

Lisa, Vicki, Luba, Patti, and Ruth take pictures when they’re out on walks. They find beauty wherever they go.

And, there are those people who make the most of any situation. Ester and her family held a special picnic on their tiny balcony—since they can’t leave home during the quarantine.

These are some of the real people who make my day.

How can you encourage others?

Your choice will depend upon your particular personality, familiarity with technology, and talents. Let me offer some ideas. Since we can’t leave the house these weeks, I’ll try to make these practical for now. Maybe some of these will spark you into adding some sparkle to your online presence.

  1. Spread the Word. Think of different ways to share Bible verses, thoughts, and messages (maybe your church’s streaming) with your friends.
  2. Share happiness. I guess it’s obvious, but just in case: happiness means happy news, positive thoughts, and pretty things. What makes you happy? You can start there. Think of options like: memes, photography, quotations, poems, sayings, praise verses.
  3. Show beauty. This means sharing God’s glorious creation, a beautiful garden, any scene from nature, your pet being cute, a lovely family photo, colorful travel scene—anything that will inspire others to smile.
  4. Write about themes that are appropriate today. I had a few blog posts all ready to go about subjects that were rather dark and serious. I’ve put them off for at least a few months. Today, people need peace, security, laughter, and of course, the gospel of salvation. Write about Truth. By the way, the Psalms are a wonderful place in which to dwell for these few weeks.
  5. Play music for others. I don’t think you have to be Pavarotti to sing or Van Cliburn in order to play the piano. However, I do prefer that the musician on social media would display at least a minimal level of proficiency. Don’t post your kid singing along with a howling dog, for example–even if they’re both cute. I can hear that in a back alley. Share music that uplifts the spirit, especially Christian music, encouraging the soul. Last week, one of my friends shared Ethel Waters singing, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Brought a happy tear to my eye.
  6. Share clean humor. The Bible says, A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (Proverbs 17:22a). If it’s funny to you, it’ll probably provide a chuckle for someone else.
  7. Avoid negative stuff. Especially now, when much of the world is quarantined at home, we don’t need to hear about deaths* (*unless in your family. We want to pray with you and for you.), accidents,* the virus,* murders, and horrors. I personally don’t enjoy reading about those things at any time, but now is the time to encourage. Avoid the rottenness, and present Truth, beauty, fun, and happy.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Be an encourager today!

For more articles about encouragers, consider these: Joses Barnabas, the Encourager, here, and Five Ways to Encourage Others Using Social Media, here.