Friday, September 18, 2020

A Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.


Reinhold Niebuhr

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Beauty from Afflictions


“The thorn is one of the most cursed, and angry, and crabbed weeds that the earth yieldeth, and yet out of it springeth the rose, one of the sweetest-smelled flowers, and most delightful to the eye, that the earth hath. Your Lord shall make joy and gladness out of your afflictions; for all His roses have a fragrant smell. Wait for the time when His own holy hand shall hold them to your nose...”

-- Samuel Rutherford

Photo credit: Cathy Wilson, who took this picture of a rose blooming in our yard.

Friday, September 11, 2020

For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow'r
Sun and moon, and stars of light,

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For our gentle thought and mild,

-- written by Folliott Pierpoint (1835-1917)

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Wrestling Match: Winning by Losing

How small that is, with which we wrestle,
What wrestles with us, how immense;
Were we to let ourselves, the way things do,
Be conquered thus by the great storm--
We would become far-reaching and nameless.
What we triumph over is the small,
And the success itself makes us small.
The eternal and unexampled
Will not be bent by us.

This is the Angel, who appeared
To the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
When his opponent's sinews
In that contest stretch like metal,
He feels them under his fingers
Like strings making deep melodies.

Whomever this Angel overcame
(who so often declined the fight)
He walks erect and justified
And great from that hard hand
Which, as if sculpting, nestled round him.
Winning does not tempt him.
His growth is this: to be
Deeply defeated by the ever-greater One

(Marie Rainer Rilke, "The Man Watching")

Sunday, September 06, 2020

A Prayer of a Minor Prophet

A Prayer of a Minor Prophet 

by A. W. Tozer (revised/updated by Mark O. Wilson)

This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Savior in the secret place and in that silence, farther in than his well-meaning brothers and sisters could take him. And he said:

O Lord, I heard your voice and was afraid. You called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. You are about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, our Lord, you have stopped to honor me to be your servant. No humans take this honor upon themselves except those called of God as Aaron. You have ordained me your messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected You, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.

My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfitness for the work. The responsibility is not mine but yours. You have said, “I knew you—I ordained you—I sanctified you,” and You has also said, “You shall go to all that I shall send you, and whatever I command you, you shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with You or to call into question your sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Yours. So be it, Lord. Your will, not mine, be done.

Well do I know, You God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor You You wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor You in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.

It is time, O God, for You to work, for the enemy has entered into your pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Your flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech You, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to distinguish the false friend from the true. Give me vision to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like your own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow You.

Lord Jesus, I come to You for spiritual preparation. Lay your hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter, not a religious manager—but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from the bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Your terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that I could make my life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I expect opposition and shall try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falls out to Your servants, I shall have grateful gifts pressed upon me by your kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that it will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in your permissive providence honor should come to me from your church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Your mercies, and that if people knew me as intimately, as I know myself, they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to You; let them be many or few, as You will. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Your servant to do Your will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven. Though I am chosen by You and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a human, made of dust and ashes, with all the natural faults and passions that plague the human race. I pray You therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with your power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in your strength and tell of your righteousness, even yours only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.

Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and number me with your saints in glory everlasting. Amen.

Original prayer is found in A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2008), pp. 65-68.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Each Step I Take

Each step I take my Savior goes before me, 
And with His loving hand He leads the way. 
And with each breath I whisper, I adore Thee;
O what joy to walk with Him each day.

At times I feel my faith begin to waver, 
When up ahead I see a chasm wide. 
It's then I turn and look up to my Savior, 
I am strong when He is by my side.

Each step I take, I know that He will guide me; 
To higher ground He ever leads me on.
Until someday the last step will be taken. 
Each step I take just leads me closer Home.

I trust in God, no matter come what may, 
For life eternal is in His hand,
He holds the key that opens up the way.
That will lead me to the promised land.

-- Elmo Mercer

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Relationship Between Emotional Health and Organizational Vitality


"When emotional dynamics are healthy, organizations are vibrant, creative, risk-taking, and highly adaptable, being able to meet any challenge with ease while retaining the essence of their identity. When the emotional dynamics are poor, organizations are rigid and reactive, trying to ignore or dismiss the need for change, and unable to cope with conflict." -- Clara King

A Preliminary Look at Flourishing Congregations in Canada: What Church Leaders are Saying p. 68.

Monday, August 17, 2020

A Prayer for College Students


Lord, bless those embarking on this journey of higher education. Keep them safe, strong, and sensitive to your Holy Spirit. As they venture forth, may they sense your presence and follow your guidance daily: discerning the difference between knowledge and wisdom. May their character be shaped through a posture of curiosity rather than criticism; humility rather than haughtiness; and diligence rather than halfheartedness. May they be conscientious while avoiding the scourge of stressful perfectionism, and seek to understand those who look at life through a different lens. May biblical faith be their sure foundation of education. May they love to learn -- but more importantly, may they learn to love. Amen.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

A Reset Button for Joy and Peace

Sometimes, when climbing out of bed I must remind myself of Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” This exercise is especially helpful on days when there are major challenges before me, and serves as a spiritual/emotional reset button for a “faith lift."

This is the Day: Today really counts. In fact, it’s the only day I have. I don’t have yesterday. It’s already gone. There’s no guarantee about tomorrow. But I do have this golden opportunity called today to treasure and I can make the most of it! John Wesley said “redeem the time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Moments are precious. Every breath we take is a special gift.

This is the day to live! Some folks live in yesterday's regrets; others live in the dread or wishfulness of tomorrow; but, we are called to live today. Make today count!

The Lord Has Made: I realize that I’m not in charge. Every morning, when I rise, the Lord has already made my day!

A guaranteed path to misery is trying to control outcomes. We have no control over much of what happens in life, and we certainly can’t control other people or their decisions. The only thing we can control is how we respond to the various situations we encounter. We must take them as they come, embracing life on its own terms.

If our happiness depends on what somebody else does (or doesn't do), we’re automatically doomed to unhappiness. Nobody will always do what makes you happy. Nobody can fulfill every expectation!

Even God doesn't fulfill every expectation. But, the point is simple: we’re not in charge! We don’t have to control it! Since the Lord made it, He can handle it however He sees fit. 

I Will Rejoice and Be Glad in It: This is an attitude issue.

Regardless of what happens, I’ll search for a blessing and cultivate gratitude,

Even in difficult circumstances, I still can rejoice and be glad. Joy and gladness come from above and within, and not from external situations.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Morning Glory, Starlit Sky

Morning glory, starlit sky,
soaring music, scholar’s truth,
flight of swallows, autumn leaves,
memory’s treasure, grace of youth:

Open are the gifts of God,
gifts of love to mind and sense;
hidden is love’s agony,
love’s endeavor, love’s expense.

Love that gives, gives ever more,
gives with zeal, with eager hands,
spares not, keeps not, all out-pours,
ventures all its all expends.

Drained is love in making full,
bound in setting others free,
poor in making many rich,
weak in giving power to be.

Therefore he who shows us God
helpless hangs upon the tree;
and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.

Here is God: no monarch he,
throned in easy state to reign;
here is God, whose arms of love
aching, spent, the world sustain.

(W. H. Vanstone)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

No Skill Required to Tear Something Down

“I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam, and the side wall fell.
I asked the foreman: "Are these skilled--
And the men you'd hire if you had to build?"
He gave me a laugh and said: "No, indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken a year to do."
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by a rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well made Plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?”

-- Edgar Guest

Monday, May 25, 2020

He Gave His Life for His Country

Today Cathy, Hannah and I visited the grave of Furman Smith, the first Medal of Honor recipient (U.S. military's highest decoration) from the state of South Carolina.

Smith, a 19-year-old farm boy from Six Mile, was in Lanuvio, Italy with Company L, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division in a mission to liberate Rome, when his unit came under heavy Nazi fire, wounding his commander and another soldier.

Instead of retreating with the rest of the company, Furman Smith stayed with his fallen comrades in an attempt to protect them. Smith fought valiantly but eventually lost his life after being swarmed by a force of 80 German soldiers.

Today, his name graces a highway about a mile from our home, and his body lies at rest in the Pleasant Hill cemetery between his parents and his younger brother, Mit, who died the following year at the tender age of 17.

Researching Furman's story today, I discovered a sister born earlier died of the plague in 1918.  It it is sad to imagine how the parents, Charles and Oley (Merck) Smith, were able to cope with such devastating loss.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Happy Aldersgate Day: A Heart Strangely Warmed

Here is the account from John Wesley's journal:

Wednesday, May 24, 1738
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will.

After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.

Thursday, May 25:
The moment I awakened, “Jesus, Master,” was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon Him and my soul waiting on Him continually. Being again at St. Paul’s in the afternoon, I could taste the good word of God in the anthem which began, “My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I ever be showing forth thy truth from one generation to another.” Yet the enemy injected a fear, “If thou dost believe, why is there not a more sensible change? I answered (yet not I), “That I know not. But, this I know, I have ‘now peace with God.’ And I sin not today, and Jesus my Master has forbidden me to take thought for the morrow.”

Wednesday, June 7:
I determined, if God should permit, to retire for a short time into Germany. I had fully proposed, before I left Georgia, so to do if it should please God to bring me back to Europe. And I now clearly saw the time was come. My weak mind could not bear to be thus sawn asunder. And I hoped the conversing with those holy men who were themselves living witnesses of the full power of faith, and yet able to bear with those that are weak, would be a means, under God, of so establishing my soul that I might go on from faith to faith, and from “strength to strength.”