1517) The Mind Is Its Own Place

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     Elizabeth was a 92-year-old, petite, well-poised, and proud lady.  She and her husband managed to live all seventy years of their married life in their own home, though in the last several years they had to depend much on each other.  When Elizabeth’s husband died, she knew she would have to move into a care center.  

     Her son brought her to the nursing home, but he had to leave before his mother’s room was ready.  Because of some mistake by the staff, Elizabeth waited for over two hours in the lobby before she could move in.  Still, she smiled sweetly when the admissions director finally called her name.  As Elizabeth maneuvered her walker to the elevator, the director provided a visual description of her small, simple room.  There wasn’t much to describe.

     “I love it,” Elizabeth said with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

     “Mrs. Jones, you haven’t even seen the room yet.  Maybe you should wait…”

     “I don’t have to see it,” Elizabeth interrupted.  “I know it will be just fine, and that I will be very happy there.  Happiness, after all,  is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how big the room is, or how fancy, or how the furniture is arranged.  It depends on how I arrange my mind.”

     Elizabeth paused, and then went on to say, “I have already decided to love it.  This is like the decision I make every morning when I wake up.  I always have a choice.  I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or, I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.  Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day.  And if I have nothing else to do, I will think about all the happy memories I have stored away for just this time in my life.”

–author unknown

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“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, or a Hell of Heaven.”

–John Milton, English poet, blind for the last 22 years of his life, (1608-1674), from  Paradise Lost, Book I.

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Philippians 4:10-14  —  I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.  Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

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This is another day, O Lord; I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer

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1485) The Way Things Were Supposed to Be, I Suppose

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By Will Campbell, Baptist minister, author, unconventional civil rights activist, and ‘pastor to bigots,’  (1924-2013); in Brother to a Dragonfly, 1978, pages 38-40.

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     Joe was the worker.  I was the sickly one.  Sister was just that– Sister.  Paul was the baby.  We lived that way and if those categories and designations and roles seemed unfair to any of us we never discussed it.  That’s who each one was.  One did not ponder identity.  Everyone knew and understood, without being told.  Without asking questions.  This is who I am.  That is who you are.  The question, “Who am l?” need not, and did not, come up.  That’s the way we lived.

     I think Joe was just under four years old when we moved from the “Old Place.”  The “Old Place” was a few hundred yards up the road from where we were all raised to leaving-home age.  Daddy and Mamma had moved there about a year after they were married, he at nineteen, she at seventeen.  They lived the first year in the house with Grandpa and Grandma.  Then Grandpa gave him forty acres of land, and then Daddy bought about that much more.  It was our place from then on.  That’s where we lived and worked and did everything that families do except go to church and school and occasionally visit kinfolks.

     We had to move from the “Old Place” because it didn’t have a well.  They tried, more than once, but there didn’t seem to be any water beneath the ground.  They carried water, two buckets at a time, from Grandpa’s house.  I remember the stories— Sister and Joe crying for a drink of water, Mamma finding Sister drinking out of a small washpan where all three of us had just been bathed, and catching rain water dripping from the eaves of the house.

     It would be some years before it occurred to our father that we were poor.  He could go to his backyard and draw up a bucket of water from a sixty-five-foot-deep well whenever he pleased or the need arose.  That was a luxury.  One with luxuries is not poor.

     It was only when the depression came that we discovered we were, in fact, poor people.  We were not destitute, not with cured hams and sides of bacon hanging in the smokehouse all year, chickens to lay eggs and to eat, cows to give us milk and fields in which to grow food.  Country people were not impoverished.  They were simply poor.

     Neighbors and uncles around us were not quite so poor because they had been in the War, and veterans were eligible for a small pension if they had been disabled by their service experience.  The way Dr. Quinn saw it, everyone who had to leave home and family and go to war had been disabled by it.  So he was the county’s biggest industry.  It was he who must do the examination and report to the government his findings.  He always found something to report.  So every man who had spent any time at all in World War I received a pension…

     Then our poverty became a reality.  Not because of our having less, but by our neighbors having more.  For our daddy was not a veteran.

     But I do not recall our being unhappy as children.  And I do not recall our being happy.  A family of six during the depression, growing no more than five or six bales of cotton a year which sold for a few cents a pound, did not think in those terms.  Even married couples did not think in those terms.  Happiness was not something promised.  Happiness was not a part of the contract.  If it came, we experienced it without naming it.  If it didn’t, we couldn’t complain, not aware that we were due it or that it even existed.  No one ever said, “I’m not happy living with you so I’m leaving.”

     …If that was the way things were supposed to be and we grew up knowing that was the way things were supposed to be, what harm could there be in it?

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Philippians 4:11b-12  —  …I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I Timothy 6:7-8  —  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Hebrews 13:5  —  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

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A PRAYER FROM PROVERBS 30:7-9: 

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

1379) No Complaints

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From Your New Money Mindset, by Brad Hewitt and James Moline, 2015, Tyndale House Publishers.

     My Grandpa Colby was a young teen when he was summoned to a neighbor’s farm to help milk a less-than-cooperative cow.  Apparently the farmer was off on a drinking binge and had abandoned the cow for days.  She was miserably full of milk and unwilling to let anyone touch her.

     As Colby arrived at the barn and moved toward the unhappy cow, he must have sensed her tension.  He talked to her as he approached and grabbed the milking stool.  But when he knelt down to milk the cow, she lurched forward and kicked him in the leg, opening a deep gash.  His torn flesh bled severely.

     There were no modern ambulances or helicopters to come to his rescue, so getting him to medical attention took precious time– lost time that allowed his young muscles to die from lack of blood.  In the end, in order to save his life, his leg had to be amputated.

     Colby had ventured down the road toward a neighbor’s farm to perform an act of kindness, not realizing his life would change forever.  As I grew up and more fully understood my Grandpa Colby, what struck me was that he wasn’t in the least consumed by his past.  I never even heard him tell his story firsthand; I had to piece it together from family recollections.  He never thought it necessary to tell me how he felt about losing his leg.  The grandpa I grew to know could have been bitter about the drunken farmer, and the call to take responsibility for someone else’s animal.  Yet he never complained about his bad fortune or the fact that the situation left him without a leg.  Instead he stayed focused on the future and the abundance of good things he could do– like catch fish with his grand-kids and beat me at checkers!

     Having the use of two healthy legs is surely a “possession” many of us believe is necessary to enjoy a full, happy, and large life.  This was especially true in the community where Grandpa Colby lived, where being able bodied was essential to earning a livelihood.  But Grandpa Colby simply found a way, as many people do, of living well without the benefit of the full body he was given at birth.  He finished school and became a successful banker and family man.  He was at peace.  He was content, regardless of circumstances.

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Philippians 3:13b-14  —  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 23:18-19  —  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path.

Jeremiah 29:11  —  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Ephesians 2:14  —  Do everything without grumbling or arguing.

Ephesians 4:31-32  —  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Romans 8:18  —   I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

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Almighty God, Lord of the storm and of the calm, of day and night, of life and death; grant unto us so to have our hearts stayed upon your faithfulness and your love, so that whatever happens to us, however black the cloud or dark the night, with quiet faith we may trust in you and walk with you; abiding all storms and troubles of this mortal life, begging of you that they may turn to our souls’ true good.  Amen.

–George Dawson (1821-1876) English Baptist minister

1369) Knowing What to Want

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From Your New Money Mindset, by Brad Hewitt and James Moline, 2015, Tyndale House Publishers.

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     Contentment and peace can come by managing our expectations.

     I recall a video clip from some years ago telling the story of a wise young woman whose insights into wanting produced a beautiful result.  It showed a young woman sitting with a television documentary host.  She looked to be in her early thirties, blonde and soft-spoken.  Her eyes and facial structure made it apparent that the young woman lived with Down syndrome.

     After a few moments of preparation by the TV personality, the interview began.  This woman had recently married a man who also lived with Down syndrome.  Since marriage among Down’s persons is rare, their lives became a curiosity.

     The interviewer wanted to know how they managed.  Were they happy?  How did they pay their bills?  Since they couldn’t drive, how did they get to work?  They would never produce biological children because of their agreement to be sterilized before the wedding.  They lacked the intellectual capacity to dive into conversations about politics, religion, and global warming.  And the great American dream of home ownership seemed far beyond their reach.  How could they possibly be satisfied?

     The woman paused for a moment after the barrage of inquiries about her happiness.  She looked the interviewer in the eyes and said slowly and confidently, “I am happy because I always get what I want.”

     Dumbfounded, the interviewer went back over the litany of things the woman and her spouse would never have.  With incredible poise, this young woman repeated her point:  “I always get what I want. But I know WHAT to want.”

     The young woman explained that her happiness was rooted in realistic expectations for her life.  She didn’t believe she would be the next Nobel laureate or even a highly skilled white-collar worker.  On the contrary, because she had settled in to her place on the planet rather well, she was able to live in contentment.

     Can you say that you know what to want? Out of her wisdom and joy, this woman shared the secret to living at peace.

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“If this life were heavenly and angelic, nothing bad would ever happen and there would be no injustice.  But this is not the way it is because our sinful nature cannot do anything but sin and be foolish.  Anyone who does not know this has not yet learned about the world.  We should think of this life as though we were in a shipwreck or a fire, laboring to salvage what we can, and with that, be thankful and content.  You are foolish if you despair of everything when it does not go your way.”

–Martin Luther, “Commentary on Ecclesiastes,” Luther’s Works Volume 15, pages 124-125 (paraphrased).

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“When you pursue happiness, you flee contentment.”

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Psalm 23:1  —  The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

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

II Timothy 6:6-8  —  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Hebrews 13:5  —  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

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.”

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O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed; and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

Book of Common Prayer

1366) A Visit From Father Time

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This meditation is from my grandson’s devotion book, The One Year Devotions for Boys, December 30th, Tyndale Publishers, copyright 2000 by The Children’s Bible Hour.  He read this to me a few nights ago when I was at his house, and I thought it would be worth passing on.  It contains a valuable lesson for us at any age.

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     When John’s mother made him shut off a violent program on TV, he headed for his room, muttering angrily to himself.  “I hate being a kid,” he growled as he climbed into bed. “I wish I was grown-up so I could do as I please!”  It seemed only a moment later when he heard footsteps.  “Is that you, Mom?” he asked.

     A shaky voice answered.  “No.  My name is Father Time, and I understand you want to be older.  I can make you any age you want to be.”

     John couldn’t believe his ears!  “What luck!” he murmured.  “I think I’ll be 21.”  Immediately he found himself in the middle of a battlefield!  Bullets whizzed around him as he begged to move on to a different age.

     Father Time agreed that John could move on if he wished.  So he tried being 40.  That was even worse!  He found himself at his mother’s funeral!  After again begging to go on, John saw that at 50, he was a cross, worried businessman with no time for pleasure.  “This is awful,” grumbled John.  “Can I be 65?  I should be retired then, so I can take it easy.”

     Father Time again granted his wish, but, alas!  Instead of enjoying his retirement, John found himself sick and dying.  “I don’t want to be here!” he cried.  “I want to go back.  I want my mother!  Mother!  Mother!”

     The next thing John knew, Mother was beside him.  “I’m here,” she comforted.  “You must have had a nightmare.”

     John was shaking, but he was so relieved!  “I did,” he said, “and you know what?  I found out how good I’ve got it.  I’m glad I’m a kid.”

HOW ABOUT YOU?  Are you eager to grow up?  Don’t be in such a hurry.  Remember that every age has both advantages and handicaps.  With God’s help, let Jesus be the Lord of your life.  Then you’ll be content, and you’ll get the very best out of life, no matter what age you are.

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Hebrews 13:5b  —  Be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Philippians 4:11b-13  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I Timothy 6:6  —  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

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THE SERENITY PRAYER

(original version, later adapted and popularized by AA)

God,
Give me Grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
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.  Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian, (1892-1971)

845) Thou Shalt Not Covet

“Most of us don’t know exactly what we want, but we’re pretty sure we don’t have it.”  (Mad magazine, Issue #110)

“Even the man who has everything is envious of the man who has two of everything.”  (Issue #255)

“A lot of people who complain they don’t get what they deserve don’t know how lucky they are.”  (Issue #275)

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“What We Ain’t Got” was recorded in 2014 by American Country Music artist Jake Owen.  It was written by Travis Meadows and Travis Jerome Goff.  Owen sings about wanting back a loved one who has left him, but then also reflects on others who want what they cannot obtain.  Owen said in an interview, “It’s a deep song that deals on a lot of levels with everyone looking at their own life. We all work so hard day to day, and we want more and more and more.  This is a world of wanting more.  It’s a song about looking at where you are and appreciating what you have, because once it’s gone we all want what we don’t have.”

We all want what we ain’t got,
Our favorite doors are always locked.
On a higher hill with a taller top,
We all want what we ain’t got

We ain’t happy where we are,
There’s greener grass in the neighbors yard.
A bigger house and a faster car,
We ain’t happy where we are.

All I want is what I had,
I’d trade it all just to get her back.
She’s moving on, but I guess I’m not..
Yeah we all want what we ain’t got..

We all wish it didn’t hurt,
When you try your best and it doesn’t work.
And goodbye’s such a painful word,
We all wish it didn’t hurt.

All I want is what I had,
Yeah I’d trade it all just to get her back.
She’s moving on, but I guess I’m not.
Yeah We all want what we ain’t got.

I wanted the world until my whole world stopped,
You know a love like that ain’t easily forgot.
I guess we all want what we ain’t got.
Yeah we all want what we ain’t got.

The video can be viewed at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGQmKA15VCk

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Deuteronomy 5:21  —  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.  You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Isaiah 55:2,3a  —  God says, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you.”

James 4:1, 2a, 3, 7-8, 10   —  What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?...  You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures…  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Philippians 4:11b-12  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want

I Timothy 6:6-10  —  But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Hebrews 13:5  —  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

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You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.  –Augustine

762) Life Getting Easier

By Garrison Keillor, Life Among the Lutherans, pp. 82-3

     …It’s bad luck, but nonetheless she was thinking it:  there does come a point in life where a great deal that used to be worrisome simply becomes easier.  It’s surprising how easy life can get.  I associate this with winter, when the weather gets cold and sometimes ferocious, and life inside becomes simpler and lovelier.  A man and woman look at each other across the breakfast table and realize it’s been a long time since they’ve had bad feelings about each other, these two who’ve gone through rough patches when big arguments could come up suddenly out of nowhere that left them emotionally drained and sorrowful for days, and now it feels as if they’ve turned a corner and found something easy, a simple pleasure in each other, in their domestic arrangements, in their mutual life, in lying in bed and rubbing her back.  It’s so easy when it’s easy.  You come to this time unaware of it, and gradually it dawns on you that you don’t covet anything anymore, you’re not ambitious for yourself anymore, you enjoy the success of other people and are happy for them, and you see so often how unable they are to be happy about their own success, but that’s not your problem.  You’ve come to this sweet time in life.

     She put the spaghetti in the boiling water.  She hummed:  “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear…”  It’s Grandma’s Spaghetti.  A wonderful dish for people who’ve had too much cuisine and been eating in restaurants where the waiter recites the recipe of each special dish, who’ve tried too hard to make their own noodles and do the sauce from the recipe that starts out, “Two days before, marinade the chopped livers in a half  cup of salt-free soy sauce– I prefer the kind from the northern islands, which is available in most Asian food specialty stores.”  For people who’ve been trying too hard, Grandma’s Spagetthi is a great treat.  The chopped tomatoes simmer in the chopped onion and butter– you can add garlic if you like, or not.  Or basil.  Or not.  And the spaghetti cooks.  And you take the spaghetti out of the water and put it in the sauce and moosh it around and serve it up with grated Parmesan on top and it’s good.  And easy.  “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear…. In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.”

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Proverbs 5:18  —  May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

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.”

Isaiah 40:11  —  He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

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O Lord, whose way is perfect, help us always to trust in thy goodness; that walking with thee and following thee in all simplicity, we may possess quiet and contented minds, and may cast all our care on thee who carest for us; for Jesus’s sake.  Amen.

–Christina Rossetti  (1830-1894), British poet

664) Proverbs on Thrift and Contentment

Enough is as good as a feast.

Beware of little expenses.

Always taking out of the meal-tub and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom.

Ask thy purse what thou should spend.

The borrower is servant to the lender.

The generous man enriches himself by giving; the miser hoards himself poor.

He is richest who is contented with least, for contentment is natural wealth.

He is well constituted who grieves not for what he has not, and rejoices for what he has.

He only is rich enough who has all he desires.

If you desire many things, the possession of many things will seem but little.

Wise and good is better than rich and great.

Prefer loss to unjust gain.

Creditors have better memories than debtors.

Debt is a heavy burden to an honest mind, but thievish borrowers make light of it.

Spending is quick, earning is slow.

It is easier to buy than to sell.

No man is free who does not command himself.

Nothing is so hard to bear well as prosperity.

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

There is as much room for happiness in a small house as in a big house.

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Proverbs 6:6-11:

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.

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
    When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Philippians 4:11-13  —   I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I Timothy 6:7-8  —  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Hebrews 13:5-6a  —  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”

Proverbs 15:16-17  —  Better a little with the fear of the Lord, than great wealth with turmoil.  Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.

Proverbs 17:1  —  Better a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting, with strife.

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550) Wow!

By Tom Bodett, Small Comforts, 1987, pages 156-159.

     Among the thousand and one truisms that were hurled at us as expectant parents was one I especially wanted to believe:  “You are going to learn the most important things from your children.”  It sounded so promising, and when accompanied by a smug veteran-parent grin, it appeared to hold water.

     I looked forward to learning about these “most important things,” but soon after our boy arrived I decided it was all a lot of tripe.  If the most important things are pricing Pampers, holding tempers, and coming up with six-hundred variations on the word “no,” then I figured people’s ideas of “important” are purely subjective.

     My partner in crime and I have spent the last twenty months with our child teaching him everything from rolling over, to the dynamics of liquids in cups not carefully handled.  All the while I held on to the hope that one day the teaching would leave off and the learning begin.  Apparently it was just a matter of time, and the time, at last, has arrived.

     We recently had occasion, as a family, to spend the night at the house of some friends in town.  They have an extra room down in the basement, and we were set up with the bed and crib in the same room.  No big deal.  The kids went to sleep early, we had wonderful late-night conversation, and retired to our accommodations.  I slept well but woke up too early, realized I was in a strange place, and couldn’t go back to sleep.

     In our natural habitat my wife and I don’t share a room with the baby.  We normally first come to know he’s awake by a series of screams from downstairs that would put any self-respecting banshee to shame.  But lying there wide awake in an unfamiliar house offered me the opportunity to hear my child wake up for the first time.  This is where the learning came in.

     Let me establish here that there are only a few words in our boy’s vocabulary.  “More” is the one we hear most often and can refer to anything from fun to food.  “No” comes in a close second as he repeats it just about as often as he hears it.  “Hello,” “Bye-bye,” “Momma,” and “Daddy” make up the rest of his standard casual conversation, and that’s all the words he’s got.  All, that is, but one.

     By far his most distinguished and seldom-used expression is the word “wow.”  He only says “wow” when something really impresses him.  If Dad lets a frying pan catch on fire and juggles it out the front door into the snow, it’s “wow.”  If we turn around backwards with the car on the way to town and hit the ditch at thirty miles an hour, it’s “wow.”  If the house were to burn down around him with the Messiah whispering reassurances into his ear the whole time, I’m confident he would sum it all up with “wow.”

     My reason for going into all this is, like I said, I had occasion to hear him come to life one recent morning.  I’d been awake for over an hour, but nobody else was up.  I lay there silently straining to hear any encouraging sign that there might be people and coffee about.  I thought about my day, and took inventory of the chores at hand.  We would have to get organized and make the drive home.  Once there I’d have wood to put up, a door to fix, a few letters to write, and some bills to pay.  My wife would clean the house. The boy would refuse to take a nap.  Luck willing, we would have a little time to spend together before Monday once again descended on our lives.  All this was less than the stuff of dreams.

     As I was lying there brooding, I heard my child stir.  He rolled over– I assume he opened his eyes– and said, “Wow.”  Suddenly, I felt like a heel.

     With all my training to “think good thoughts,” “look on the bright side,” and “take it a day at a time,” I woke up to a near-miserable world.  This little boy who knows nothing of optimism woke up, saw he had a new day, and gave it his grandest praise.  I learned something.

     It dawned on me that this innocent little child was at the place I wanted to be.  To wake up in the morning, take a look at the world, and say “Wow” is probably about as close to contentment as a person can ever hope to get.

     Contentment is a rare commodity.  The more we learn about this world, the more anxious we get.  There is trouble afoot.  There are heartbreaks, failures, tragedies, and an endless list of selfish desires that are never realized.  Sooner or later we come to resent our own existence.  I’m sure our innocent child will eventually eat this forbidden apple. and wake up, as most of us do, to say only “Ugh.”

     I wish I knew what I could do to never let this happen.  I wish he could teach me the way he sees things now so that I could help him hold on to it– and so I could remember how it’s done.  That truly would be a “most important thing” if this tiniest of guides can show me from his crib how to open my eyes in the morning, see that I am alive in Paradise, and say “Wow.”

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Psalm 118:24  —  This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

1 Chronicles 23:30a  —  They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord.

Philippians 4:11b  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

I Timothy 6:6-7  —  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

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526) How Much is Enough?

A vacationing American businessman was standing on the pier of a quaint coastal fishing village in southern Mexico when a small boat with just one young fisherman pulled into the dock.  Inside the small boat were several large Yellowfin Tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American casually asked.

“Oh, a few hours,” the Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American businessman then asked.

The Mexican warmly replied, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The businessman then became serious, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

Responding with a smile, the Mexican fisherman answered, “I sleep late, play with my children, watch ballgames, and take siesta with my wife.  Sometimes in the evenings I take a stroll into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, sing a few songs.”

The American businessman impatiently interrupted, “Look, I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you to be more profitable.  You can start by fishing several hours longer every day.  You can then sell the extra fish you catch.  With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat.  With the additional income that larger boat will bring, you can then buy a second boat, a third one, and so on, until you have an entire fleet of fishing boats.

“Then, instead of selling your catch to a middleman you’ll be able to sell your fish directly to the processor, or even open your own cannery.  Eventually, you could control the product, processing and distribution.  You could leave this tiny coastal village and move to Mexico City, or possibly even LA or New York City, where you could even further expand your enterprise.”

Having never thought of such things, the Mexican fisherman asked, “But how long will all this take?”

After a rapid mental calculation, the businessman pronounced, “Probably about 15-20 years, maybe less if you work really hard.”

“And then what, senor?” asked the fisherman.

“Why, that’s the best part!” answered the businessman with a laugh.  “When the time is right, you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich.  You would make millions.”

“Millions?  Really?  What could I do with it all?” asked the young fisherman in disbelief.

The businessman boasted, “Then you could happily retire with all the money you’ve made.  You could move to a quaint coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, play with your grandchildren, watch ballgames, take siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could play the guitar and sing with your friends all you want.”

The moral of the story is:  Know what really matters in life, and you may find that it is already much closer than you think.      –Author unknown

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Philippians 4:11b-13  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

1 Timothy 6:6-8  —  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Hebrews 13:5  —  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

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A PRAYER FROM PROVERBS 30:7-9: 

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.