19) The Miser

A story by Ivan Krilov (1768-1844), Russian writer of fables,
from Harper’s Fourth Reader, © 1888, by Harper and Brothers.

     “Is it worthwhile being rich if one is never to enjoy his riches, but only spend his life in heaping up money?  And of what use is great wealth, after all?  We die and then leave it behind.  No, if riches had fallen to me, I would not have hoarded my gains, as some men do, but I would have lived in true enjoyment of my wealth.  My feasts should have been talked about far and near.  And besides, I would have done good to others, and given money to the poor.” 

     So thought a poor man to himself, lying on his hard bed in a wretched hovel.  Just at that moment a wizard came and stood before him.  “You wish to be rich,” said the wizard, “for I have heard you say so.  I am always glad to help a friend, and so here is a purse for you.  There is just one ducat in it, and no more; but as soon as you have taken one coin out of it you will find another in it all ready for you.  So now, my friend, your growing rich depends entirely upon your own wishes.  Take the purse, and freely supply yourself from it until your craving is satisfied.  Only bear this in mind; until you shall have flung the purse into the river, you are forbidden to spend a single ducat.”

   Thus he spoke, and then left the purse with the poor man.  The man was almost beside himself with joy.  As soon as he regained his senses, he began to handle the purse; and with what result?  Scarcely could he believe it was not a dream.  He had hardly taken one ducat out before another was already in the purse.  Our poor friend now said to himself, “I will shake out a thousand ducats.  Then, tomorrow, I shall be rich, and I will begin to live like a nobleman.”

   But the next morning he had changed his mind.  “It is true,” he said, “I am rich now.  But who isn’t glad to get hold of a good thing, and why shouldn’t I become twice as rich?  It surely wouldn’t be wrong for me to spend another day or two over the prize.  Here I have money for a country house, but if I might buy even more properties, wouldn’t it be stupid to lose such an opportunity?  Yes, I will keep the wonderful purse.  So be it.  I will fast one day more; and after that I will have plenty of time for luxurious living.”

   But what happens?  A day goes by, and then a week, a month, a year.  Our poor man has long ago lost all count of the ducats.  Meanwhile he eats scantily and lives sparingly.  Scarcely has the day begun to break before he is back at the purse.  Sometimes he makes up his mind to throw away the purse, but then his heart grows faint within him.  He reaches the bank of the river, and then turns back again.  He has not yet quite as much gold as he would like to have.  He will wait until tomorrow. “How can I possibly part with the purse,” he says, “while it yields so rich a stream of gold.”

     In the course of time our poor man has grown gray and thin and as yellow as his own gold.  He does not even think of luxury now.  He has become faint and feeble; health and rest are unknown to him.  But still, with trembling hand, he goes on taking ducats out of the purse.  He takes and takes, and how does it all end?  On the bench on which he used to sit gloating over his wealth– on that very bench he dies, in the act of counting the last coins of his ninth million.

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more that is poor.” Seneca
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Job 20:20 — Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure. 

Proverbs 23:4-5 — Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. 

Ecclesiastes 5:10 — Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless. 

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Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.    –The Book of Common Prayer

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18) Thoughts on the Old Home Place

LeRoy Iseminger is a retired Lutheran minister who grew up on a farm in
South Dakota.  He has given much thought to his life and the land he
was raised on and the passage of time; and he thinks about all this in
the context of his faith.  The South Dakota prairie he was from used to
provide a home for one family to every 160 acres, but in just couple
generations everything has changed.  The land is still all farmed,
but it is no longer lived on.  LeRoy’s home place, like most other home
places in the great plains states, is now abandoned.  He wrote an article
about a visit he made to the old home place.  Today’s
meditation is from that article (paraphrased).

     Today, I felt a feeling and a yearning within me that is too deep for words.  I stood at my birthplace, which is also my father’s birthplace.  I walked on the prairie land that was once my father’s dream.  I stood in what was left of the grove of ash trees he had planted, and which for decades stood in defiance of the prairie’s wind, drought, and blizzards.  But the trees are now all dead or dying. 

     Those trees had represented my father’s investment in and faith in the future.  Those trees were planted for future generations– they were planted for me.  But now I am old and I am not on the land, and neither are my children, and the broken trunks and branches reach toward an indifferent sky.  The trees are dead.  My father is also dead.  “All flesh is grass,” says the Bible, “we flourish like the flower of the field,” it says, “but then it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”

     All that remains of that homestead and that dream is the hog house that my father built.  That’s still there, though not for long.  The old wooden windmill has already crumpled into the prairie sod.  That once proud tower that had pumped life into a prairie farmer, his family, and his livestock,–is rotting in the dirt.  The house that was a home for my father’s wife and their two little sons– that is gone too.

     The concrete storm cellar remains, though without its door.  In addition to offering shelter during summer storms, it had also been the storeroom for canned goods, garden produce, eggs, and milk.  I went down the concrete steps into its cool darkness.  And I remembered as a child curling up against the concrete wall with my parents while a prairie storm raged above us.  I could hear in my memories my father whispering to my mother his hopes that the hail and the wind would not destroy the wheat crop.  Usually it didn’t, though there were times that it did.  But it’s all the same now.

   Willa Cather, in her novel O Pioneers, talks about the prairie ‘reclaiming itself.’  This reclaiming is happening at this site which was once my home.  The hog house is still there, but only with effort can I see the old foundations of the barn, only with effort can I see a small bump in the field where the driveway used to be.  I can also see a clump of weeds covering a pile of old fence posts– another bit of evidence that someone once lived here.  I step on a object and reach down and retrieve a part of a horse bridle from the long grass.  Most of the place is plowed under.  The rest soon will be.  The prairie is slowly but relentlessly reclaiming my birthplace.  Someday, the prairie will also reclaim me.  The church yard where I will lay is not far away.  It is all under the same stretch of sod.

     “Out of the dust you are taken and unto the dust you shall return,” the pastor said in that churchyard as my father was buried, and then later, as my mother and my brother were laid to rest.  Some pastor will say that for me also before long, and then the prairie will have reclaimed everything which once lived and moved on this place which was my home.

     How long my parents, or myself, or any of us will lie in the prairie’s depths, I do not know.  That, and what will happen then, is all in God’s hands, and we must trust him for that.  We are promised in the Bible that we will live again, and we are told that Jesus will return for us.

     I returned to my car.  The tears in my eyes reminded me that this land was my home, and it has a hold on me that will never let me go.  And that becomes a reminder for me of God, who for all eternity will never let me go, and He has prepared for me a home that no prairie will ever reclaim, but a home that will last forever.

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Psalm 103:15-16 — As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

Matthew 6:19-20 — (Jesus said), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

I Peter 1:3-4 — Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade– kept in heaven for you.

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Time, like an ever-rolling stream
Soon bears us all away;
We fly forgotten as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Still be our guard will troubles last
And our eternal home.

O God Our Help in Ages Past, (v. 5, 6), Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

17) On Trying to Please Everyone

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey from Aesop’s Fables

     A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market.  As they were walking along by the donkey’s side, a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?”  So the man put the boy on the donkey and they went on their way.  But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.  ” So the man ordered his boy to get off, and got on himself.  But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other:  “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”  Well, the man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his boy up and set him on the donkey with him.  By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them.  The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at.  The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with you and your hulking son?”  The man and boy got off and tried to think what to do.  They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders.  They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole.  In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and because his fore-feet were tied together he was drowned.  “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:  “Please all, and you will please none.”

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From John Ploughman’s Pictures: More Plain of His Plain Talk for Plain People Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1880:

     …He who will not go to bed until he pleases everybody will have to sit up a great many nights.  Many men and women, will mean many minds and many whims, and so if we please one we are sure to set another grumbling.  We had better wait till they are all of one mind before we mind them, or we shall be like the man who tried to hunt many hares all at once and caught none.  Besides, the fancies of men alter, and folly is never long pleased with the same thing, but changes its palate, and grows sick of what it once doted on.  Good Nature may be a great misfortune if we do not mix prudence with it.  ‘He that all men would please, shall never find ease.’  To live upon the praises of others is to feed on the air, for what is praise but the breath of men’s nostrils?  That’s poor stuff to make dinner of.  Change for the better as often as you like, but make sure it is better before you change.  There is nothing more insane than to try and please a thousand masters at once; one is quite enough.  If a man pleases God he may let the world wag its own way, and frown or flatter as it pleases.  What is there, after all, to frighten you in a fool’s grin, or in the frown of a poor mortal like yourself?  

     If it mattered at all what the world says of us, it would be some comfort that when a good man is buried people say, “He was not a bad fellow after all.”  When the man’s gone to heaven folks know their loss, and wonder why it was that they did not treat him better.  The way of pleasing men is hard, but blessed are they who please God.  He is not a free man who is afraid to think for himself, for if his thoughts are in bonds, the man is not free.  A true man does what he thinks to be right, whether the pigs grunt or the dogs howl.  Are you afraid to follow out your conscience because Tom, Jack, and Harry, or Mary and Betsy would laugh at you?  Then you are not at all like John Ploughman, who goes on his way whistling merrily, though many find fault with himself, and his plough, and his horses, and his harness, and his boots, and his coat, and his waistcoat, and his hat, and his head, and every hair on it.  John says it amuses them and doesn’t hurt him.  And you will never catch John or his boys carrying a donkey.

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I Corinthians 4:1-5 — So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time, each will receive his praise from God.  (NIV)

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A PRAYER FOR THE ABILITY TO SERVE WITH HUMILITY (by Martin Luther):  Dear Lord God, I thank you that you have directed me into this place of service in which I know I am able serve and please you.  I will serve here willingly, gladly comply with the requirements, and abandon myself to doing what needs to be done.  What harm is there if I am occasionally rebuked, when I am assured that this is an acceptable service to you?  You suffered so much for me, should not I gladly do and suffer something to your honor and service?  I would not rebel against being even a dog in your house, if only I may at least eat the crumbs that fall from your table.  You owe me nothing at all.  I depend on your grace and mercy.  Amen.

16) Can Your Faith Survive Prosperity?

 Today’s reading is from a blog that I follow.  Author Randy Alcorn shared these thoughts yesterday from his Eternal Perspectives Ministries website and blog ( http://www.epm.org ).  His words remind me of an old German proverb which says, “It takes strong shoulders to bear good times.”

     Dwight L. Moody once said, “We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity. For in prosperity, we forget God.”
     Moody’s quote reminds me of something that Josef Tson, a believer who was nearly martyred in Ceauşescu’s Romania, said in a class I was taking from him: “Ninety percent of Christians pass the test of adversity, while ninety percent of Christians fail the test of prosperity.”
     This is really in keeping with God’s Word.  For instance, Deuteronomy 6:10-12 says: 
When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

     We need to realize that if not for the work of God in our lives, we would have never experienced these abundant blessings.  How many good things come our way that we did not work for or earn or achieve, but were just given into our laps through the homes we grew up in and the culture we live in?  These blessings come through the things that God has done in the past and is doing in the present for us.
     Hosea 13:6 says, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”  That’s always the danger—to look at all that God has given us and start to think, “This is about us.” We can begin to believe that somehow we deserve all that we have instead of acknowledging the sovereign grace of God that has put these good things into our hands.
     So let’s be conscious in prosperity. The only way you can survive prosperity is to see it as a gift from God’s hand, and to use it generously to help other people.

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Deuteronomy 8:17-18  —  You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…

Psalm 103:2  —  Praise the Lord, O my soul,  and forget not all his benefits…

Hosea 13:6  —  (The Lord says), “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud.  Then they forgot me.

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     Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.      —Book of Common Prayer

15) Facing Up to Reality

Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) was a Baptist preacher, New Testament scholar, and farmer.  He operated an integrated farm in Georgia in the 1950’s before integration was allowed in the South.  Blacks and whites lived, worked, and ate together on this cooperative farm, and their neighbors did all they could to get them out of the area.  In this reading, Jordan describes one of the attempts to get him to move.    (From Cotton Patch Sermons (p. 114) by Clarence Jordan)

     One time about 93 carloads of Ku Klux Klansmen came out to Koinonia Farm and suggested to us that we find a climate a little bit more conducive to our health.  We declined the advice, and word got out that I was about to be lynched.  Some very dear friends came to me and suggested that I find refuge north of the Mason-Dixon line.

    I said, “Well, we came here because of the will of God, and, if we leave, it will have to be because of the will of God.”

    They said, “Now, wait a minute here, you’ve been a preacher too long.  You’ve got to get your head out of them theological clouds and face up to reality.  That Klan is about to lynch you and you might as well face up to it.”

    Well, I hadn’t been sitting there being bombed and machine-gunned and all like that for three years without being aware of the fact that I was in danger.  But I said to them, “Now, what do you mean ‘face up to reality?’”

    They said, “Be practical.  It’s all right to discuss theology at the seminary, but you got to face up to the cold stark facts of life.”

    I said to them, ‘Now listen, I think I’m the one that’s being realistic and you are the ones that are being unrealistic.  You’re facing up to the demands of the Klan which is temporal and transient.  And I’m facing up to the demands of God who is eternal.  Now who’s being realistic?  I think God was here before the Klan and I think He’ll be here after the Klan is gone.  And I think God is more real in this universe than the Ku Klux Klan.”

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Faith is not belief in spite of evidence but a life lived in scorn of the consequences.   Clarence Jordan

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     The story is told that after one sermon before a Southern congregation, an elderly woman approached Clarence Jordan and said, “I want you to know that my granddaddy fought in the Civil War, and I’ll never believe a word you say.”  Returning her steely glare with a gracious smile, Jordan replied, “Ma’am, your choice seem quite clear.  It is whether you will follow your granddaddy or Jesus Christ.”

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Matthew 10:28 — (Jesus said), “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

 Psalm 56:3-4 — When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?

Psalm 118:5-8 — In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.  I will look in triumph on my enemies.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

Acts 21:12b-14 — …We and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.  Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?  I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

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    O Lord Jesus, who art the only health of all men living, and the everlasting life of those who die in thy faith: I give myself wholly unto thy will, being sure that anything which is committed unto thy mercy cannot perish.  –-Thomas Cromwell, before his execution

14) Calm in a Storm

     I was visiting Bernice in the care center the other day.  Bernice has had many health problems over the last several years, but her strong faith sustains her, and she is usually in good spirits and content to be at the care center.  So I was surprised to hear her say, “You know, I can’t wait to get out of here.”  
     Knowing that she needs the care she receives there and would not be able to live independently, I said, “But Bernice, where will you go?”
     “Well,” she said cheerfully, “to heaven of course!” 
      That same joyful and confident hope is expressed in the following story which is adapted from Surprise Endings, by Ron Mehl (Multnomah Publishers, 1995):
     A woman caught in a frightening storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean had kept all the little children on board from panicking by telling them Bible stories.  After finally reaching the dock safely, the ship’s captain approached the woman, whom he had observed in the midst of the tempest.
     “How were you able to maintain your calm when everyone feared the ship would sink in this storm?” the captain asked.  As she looked up, he noticed the same quiet peace in her eyes that she had maintained throughout the journey.
     “I have two daughters,” explained the woman.  “One of them lives in New York.  The other lives in heaven.  I knew I would be seeing one or the other of my daughters in a few hours, and it really didn’t matter to me which one.”

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Isaiah 26:3-4 — You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.

John 16:33 — (Jesus said), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” 

John 14:27 — (Jesus said), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Philippians 4:6-7 — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

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Protect me, dear Lord;
My boat is so small,
And your sea is so big.
–Breton fisherman’s prayer

13) Between Me and God

     I remember asking my grandfather why his grandfather left Germany to come to this country.  Grandpa said that the old emigrant told him that Germany was always getting into wars and drafting all the young men, and he did not want to die as a soldier in some fight that did not concern him.  He wanted to farm, and he wanted to get married and raise a family.  I thought of that when I read this quote by Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), the leader of the German empire at that time.  Late in life he had this to say:

“I have a burden on my soul.  During all my long life, I did not make anyone happy, neither my friends, nor my family, nor even myself.  I have done many evil things… I was the cause of the beginning of three big wars.  About 800,000 people were killed because of me on the battlefields, and their mothers, brothers, and widows cried for them.  And now this stands between me and God.”

     That makes me think about three things.  First of all, if my great-great-grandfather had not left Germany when he did, he would have perhaps been among the 800,000 killed– and then, where would I be now?
     Secondly, that makes me think about Mahmoud Ahmadinejab, Kim Jong-un, Joseph Kony, Bashar al-Assad and all of today’s other temporary tyrants with their brief hold on power, using it to cause so much death and destruction and heartache around the world.  Someday soon they will perish like all tyrants do, and then all their deeds will stand between them and God.
     Thirdly, it makes me think about all that I have done that now stands between me and God.  And that makes me give thanks for Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of my sins, for only by faith in Him can I hope to stand before God.

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Job 31:13-15 — If I have denied justice to any of my servants, whether male or female, when they had a grievance against me, what will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account? Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

Hosea 7:2 — (God says), “They do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.”

Proverbs 11:7 — When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing. (NIV, 1984)

Colossians 1:21-23 — Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.  This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

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     Almighty and merciful Father, whose clemency I now presume to implore, after a long life of carelessness and wickedness, have mercy upon me.  I have committed many trespasses; I have neglected many duties.  I have done what thou hast forbidden, and left undone what Thou hast commanded.  Forgive, merciful Lord, my sins, negligences, and ignorances, and enable me, by the Holy Spirit, to amend my life according to thy Holy Word, for Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.
                                                                           –Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

12) Getting Used to Ingratitude

     In these quotes taken from an anthology of quotes by Martin Luther (What Luther Says, volume 3,  Concordia), Luther teaches us to learn to live with ingratitude.

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     To learn to be thankful is not enough; we must also get used to exercising the virtue of bearing up under ingratitude.  This virtue belongs to God alone and to real Christians…  Learn this lesson, then.  Let him who would be a Christian be prepared to earn ingratitude with all his benefactions, faithfulness, and service; and let him beware lest he be moved thereby no longer to serve and help others.  For one of the Christian virtues and a real fruit of faith consists in your saying, when people give you a dirty deal after you have done your best:  “No, you will not get me angry and disgruntled by your conduct.  I will put up with it and nevertheless help wherever I can.  Will you be unthankful?  I know One in heaven above us who will thank me in your stead.  His thanks will be more pleasing to me than yours.”  This is maintaining a Christian attitude.  But you will not be able to learn this art from the world.  It does the very opposite.  (#4555)

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     We must live among ungrateful people, but we should not take offense and cease to do good on that account.  On the contrary, we should continually do good and pay no attention to the poor thanks we reap.  Just so God lets His sun rise daily on both the grateful and the ungrateful  (Matthew 5:45).

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     For if you do good in order to earn the gratitude and applause of the world, you will find the very opposite.  Now if you grow very angry, want to wreck everything, and are determined to do no more good, you are no longer a Christian.  You harm yourself and accomplish nothing.  Can you not see where your home lies, that you are living in a world which is bound to be full of vice and ingratitude?…  It requires no skill to live with the pious only and to do good to them, but it does require ability to associate with the wicked without becoming wicked yourself.    (#4556)

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Psalm 35:12 — They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn.

Ecclesiastes 9:14-15 — There was once a small city with only a few people in it.  And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it.  Now there lived in that city a man poor, but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.  But nobody remembered that poor man.

Jeremiah 18:19-20 — Listen to me, O Lord; hear what my accusers are saying!  Should good be repaid with evil?  Yet they have dug a pit for me.  Remember that I stood before you and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them.

Luke 17:11-19 — Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him.  They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  And as they went, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Matthew 5:45 — He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (NIV)

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     O Father and God of all comfort, grant us by your Word, a firm, happy, and grateful faith, by which we may readily overcome this and every trial, and at length realize that it is the truth when your Son, Jesus Christ says: “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”  Amen.   –Martin Luther

11) The Patron Saint of Rape Victims

     Maria Teresa Goretti was born in Corinaldo, Italy, on October 16, 1890.  Her father Luigi was a farmer, but when Maria was six the family fell on hard times.  Luigi was forced to give up his farm and work for other farmers.  The family moved to Ferrier di Conca, near Anzio.  When Maria was only nine, her father died of malaria and her mother had to struggle to feed her children.  While her mother, brothers, and older sister worked in the fields, Maria would cook, sew, watch her infant sister, and keep the house clean.  Life was hard, but the family was very close.  They shared a deep faith in God.

     The family lived in a large building along with other farm worker families, including Giovanni Serenelli and his eighteen year old son, Alessandro.  On July 5, 1902 Alessandro came into the room where the eleven year old Maria was alone sewing.  He had persistently been seeking  sexual favors from Maria and she was always able to resist him, but this time he threatened her with a knife if she did not do as he said.  Maria would not submit to the intended rape, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning Alessandro that he would go to hell.  She fought desperately to stop him.  Alessandro started choking Maria, but when she said she would rather die than submit he stabbed her several times with his knife, and then ran away.

     The violence awoke the infant.  When Maria’s mother came to check on the crying child, she found the bleeding Maria and took her to the nearest hospital.  Surgery was unsuccessful and Maria died less than 24 hours after the attack.  Before she died, Maria expressed forgiveness for her murderer, stating that she hoped that he could one day be in heaven with her.

     Alessandro was captured and sentenced to thirty years in prison.  For three years he was unrepentant and had no communication with the outside world.  Then one day the local bishop visited him.  Some time later, Alessandro wrote a thank you note to the bishop, asking for his prayers and telling him about a dream he had in which “Maria Goretti gave him lilies which burned immediately in his hands.”  When he woke, he repented of his crime and vowed to live a reformed life.

     When Alessandro was released 27 years later he went directly to Maria’s still-living mother Assunta to beg her forgiveness.  She forgave him saying, “If my daughter could forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness?”  The next day they attended Mass together, receiving communion side by side.

     On June 24, 1950, Pope Pius XII canonized Maria as a saint.  Assunta was there, the first mother ever to attend the canonization of her child.  Alessandro was also there.  He later became a lay brother of an Order of Friars, living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until he died in 1970. 

     Maria Goretti’s feast day is celebrated on July 6th. She is the patron saint for youth and victims of rape.

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I Peter 3:9  —  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Matthew 5:43-46  —   (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor  and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”

Colossians 3:13  —  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

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A PRAYER FOR THE ABILITY TO FORGIVE by Martin Luther:
     My Lord Jesus, look at how my neighbor has injured me, slandered my honor with his talk, and interfered with my rights.  I cannot tolerate this, and so I wish he were out of my way.  O God, hear my complaint.  I cannot feel kindly toward him, even though I know I should.  See how cold and insensible I am.  O Lord, I can’t help it, and so I stand forsaken.  If you change me, I will be devout and have better thoughts.  Otherwise, I must remain as I am.  O dear God, change me by your grace.  Amen.

10) Go to the Dog, and Consider Its Ways

     We read in the book of Proverbs, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”  If God’s Word can advise us to learn something about work from the hard-working ants, we should also be able to learn something about faith from that most faithful of all God’s creatures, the dog.
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CLUNY by William Croswell Doane in The Boston Evening Transcript

I am quite sure he thinks that I am God–
Since He is God on whom each one depends
For life, and all things that His bounty sends–
My dear old dog, most constant of all friends;
Not quick to mind, but quicker far than I
To Him whom God I know and own; his eye
Deep brown and liquid, watches for my nod;
He is more patient underneath the rod
Than I, when God His wise corrections sends.
He looks love at me, deep as words e’er spake;
And from me never crumb or sup will take
But he wags thanks with his most vocal tail;
And when some crashing noise wakes all his fear
He is content and quiet if I’m near,
Secure that my protection will prevail;
So, faithful, mindful, thankful, trustful, he
Tells me what I unto my God should be.
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My goal is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am.  –unknown
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Take two minutes to watch this little video, “GoD and DoG”  

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Proverbs 6:6-8  —  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.

Zechariah 8:8  —  “I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”

I Corinthians 4:2  —  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

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     Lord, since Thou hast taken from me all that I had of Thee, yet of Thy grace leave me, I pray,  the gift which every dog has by nature; that of being true to Thee in my distress, when I am deprived of all consolation.  Amen.
                             –Mechthild of Magdeburg, Cistercian nun and mystic (1210?-1285?)