1425) Figure it Out

     My wife and I got acquainted in Chautauqua, New York, with a minister who had no arms.  He was telling us one day there at Chautauqua the experience of learning to put on his own clothes without any arms.  He said his mother always dressed him, and he’d gotten to be a pretty big boy.  She fed him, she dressed him, she fed him, she dressed him.  One day she put his clothes in the middle of the floor and said, “Dress yourself.”

     He said, “I can’t dress myself, I don’t have…”

     She said, “You’ll have to dress yourself,” and she left the room.

     He said, “I kicked, I screamed, I kicked, I screamed, I yelled, ‘You don’t love me anymore!’  Finally, I realized that, if I were to get any clothes on, I’d have to get my clothes on.”  After hours of struggle, he got some clothes on.  He said, “It was not until later that I knew my mother was in the next room crying.”

     I don’t know if God distances God’s self from us, but I know sometimes we feel some distance.

–Fred Craddock in Craddock Stories, page 97.

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From Let Me Tell You a Story, pages 7-9, © 2000 by Tony Campolo  (1935- )

    There are those who say that if God loves us, He should answer our prayers.  But we should recognize that sometimes it may be that God doesn’t answer our prayers because He loves us.

    Sören Kierkegaard tells the story of a schoolboy who refuses to learn.  His teacher tries hard to get him interested in his schoolwork and to apply himself to his studies.  But the boy shrugs off her concerns and pays her little attention.  She begs him to cooperate.  She pleads with him to let her teach him, but he refuses.  He just wants to play.  Eventually the teacher says, “Okay.  Tell me what you want to do, and you can do it.”

    The boy says he would like to just sit in the back of the room and make some drawings and sleep a little bit, and spend some time doing nothing at all.  The teacher tells him that he can, and he is allowed to do exactly what he wants.

    Kierkegaard ends the story by saying, “The boy got what he asked for because the teacher had given up on him.”  He then goes on to say, “Beware when God answers prayer!”  He suggests that we sometimes get what we want because God has given up on us.  On the other hand, God may refuse to give us what we want because He loves us.

    This point is especially real to me because of an incident when my own father did not accede to a desperate request.  I was about eight years old when I went to a Saturday matinee at the movies and saw a cowboy film about Hopalong Cassidy.  I was so impressed with that cowboy hero that I went home and told my father that when I grew up, I wanted to be a cowboy.  I really meant it!  I was intense!  I was passionate about it!

    The good news is that my father didn’t give me what I wanted.  Wouldn’t it have been a weird situation if when I was seventeen and asked him about going to college, he had exclaimed, “College! What do you mean you want money for college?  When you were eight you told me you wanted to be a cowboy.  You said it with such passion, and you pled with such earnestness, that I made sure your dreams would come true.  I spent the money I had saved for you on a thousand acres of land in Texas, along with a horse and a hundred head of cattle.  It’s all waiting for you, because that’s what you pled for.  That’s what you said you really wanted.”

    I’m glad to say that my father did not give me what I thought I wanted when I was eight years old, so that he might one day give me something I really needed.  He didn’t want me to have what I though I wanted, because he knew, eventually, it wouldn’t be what I wanted at all.   And so it is with God.

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Drawing of Søren Kierkegaard. The Frederiksbor...

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

    Sören Kierkegaard also told the story of a boy trying to learn arithmetic.  The teacher gives him a book full of problems to solve.  In the back of the book there’s a listing of the answers to the problems, but the teacher instructs the boy never to look at the answers in the back of the book.  Instead, he is to work out the answers for himself.

    As the boy does his homework, he cheats.  He looks in the back of the book and gets the answers beforehand, finding it much easier to work out the problems if he knows the answers in advance.  Kierkegaard points out that while it is quite possible for the boy to get good grades this way, he will never really learn mathematics.  As difficult as it may prove to be, the only way to become a mathematician is to struggle with the problems himself not by using someone else’s answers, even if those answers are the right ones.

    It’s obvious that on life’s journey we are faced with problems, and we sometimes wonder why Jesus doesn’t just spell out the answers so that we know exactly what to do.  That is what we might want.  According to Kierkegaard, however, God doesn’t give us the answers because He wants to force us to work out the problems, and figure them out for ourselves.  It is only by struggling with the problems as they present themselves, day in and day out, that we can develop into the kinds of mature people God wants us to be.

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Romans 1:18-24a  —  From heaven God shows how angry he is with all the wicked and evil things that sinful people do to crush the truth.  They know everything that can be known about God, because God has shown it all to them.  God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen.  But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made.  That’s why those people don’t have any excuse.  They know about God, but they don’t honor him or even thank him.  Their thoughts are useless, and their stupid minds are in the dark.  They claim to be wise, but they are fools.  They don’t worship the glorious and eternal God.  Instead, they worship idols that are made to look like humans who cannot live forever, and like birds, animals, and reptiles.  So God let these people go their own way…  
Psalm 119:71  —  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
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    Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee; thou only knowest what I need…   I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee.  Behold my needs which I know not myself.  Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up; I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them.  I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee.  I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will.  Teach me to pray…   Amen.     –Francois Fenelon, French priest, (1651-1715)
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1417) “What is it You Believe?”

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   Gerhard Forde (1927-2005) was a professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota for almost forty years.  He told the story of going to a social gathering at a local college several years ago.  One of the professors of that college introduced himself to Professor Forde in this way: “I am a writer of books,” he said, “and what is it that you do?”
     Dr. Forde said, “Well, it just so happens that I write books as well.”
     The other man asked, “What sort of books do you write?”
     Dr. Forde replied, “I mainly write about Jesus Christ.”
     The other man then said, “Imagine that, a learned man like yourself writing about Jesus Christ.  Do you mean to say that you write about him as the Son of God, Savior of the world, risen from the dead?  You don’t really believe all that religious mumbo-jumbo, do you?”
     “Well, I suppose I do,” said Dr. Forde, and then asked, “And what is it that you believe?”
     And the other professor said, “I believe in the dignity of man.  I believe in the basic goodness of all human beings.  I believe that through reason and the power of science, we can begin to address those problems that have plagued the world from the beginning, and in the end, I believe that love will prevail.  If I did not believe this, then I would not be able to get up in the morning and write my books.”
     And Dr. Forde replied, “Imagine that, a learned man like yourself, believing in all that mumbo-jumbo.”

–From a sermon by Luther Seminary professor Steven Paulson at a 2006 conference.

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 I Corinthians 1:17-25 — For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 
     Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

I Corinthians 2:13-14 — This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 

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A PRAYER FOR ONE’S STUDY by SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-84):
     O Lord, my Maker and Protector, who hast graciously sent me into this world to work out my salvation, enable me to drive from myself all such unquiet and perplexing thoughts as may mislead or hinder me in the practice of those duties which thou hast required.  When I behold the works of thy hands and consider the course of thy providence, give me Grace always to remember that thy thoughts are not my thoughts, nor thy ways my ways.  And while it shall please Thee to continue me in this world where much is to be done and little to be known, teach me by thy Holy Spirit to withdraw my mind from unprofitable and dangerous inquiries,  from difficulties vainly curious, and doubts impossible to be solved.  Let me rejoice in the light which thou hast imparted, let me serve thee with active zeal and humble confidence, and wait with patient expectation for the time in which my soul, which Thou receivest, shall be satisfied with knowledge.  Grant this, O Lord, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

1265) A Few Good Quotes

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ON GETTING WHAT WE DESERVE:

“A lot of people who complain that they aren’t getting what they deserve don’t know how lucky they are.”  (Mad magazine, Issue #275)

 In the 1992 movie Unforgiven a young gunslinger is having second thoughts about a man he just shot and killed, and he asks an old gunslinger (Clint Eastwood) if the guy really had it coming.  Clint Eastwood, having many second thoughts about much of his past life, replied, “Son, we all got it coming.”

All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.  –Romans 3:23

What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?  Those things result in death!…  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  –Romans 6:21… 23

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Why should men love the Church?  Why should they love her laws?  She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would want to forget.  She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.  She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.

–T. S. Eliot

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      “Joy died at 10 o’clock last night… I was alone with her at the moment but she was not conscious…  I can’t understand my loss yet and hardly (except for brief but terrible moments) feel more than a kind of bewilderment, almost a psychological paralysis. A bit like the first moments after being hit by a shell (Lewis was severely wounded after being hit by a shell in WWI)…  I’d like to meet. Perhaps some day when you are in town I could take you to lunch.  For I am—oh God that I were not—very free now. One doesn’t realize in early life that the price of freedom is loneliness. To be happy one must he tied.”

–From a letter by C. S. Lewis to his friend Peter Bide after the death of his wife in 1960

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ON LIVING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT:

Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future.  Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.”  It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for.  The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

 —C S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory

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“Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.”

–Philip Yancey

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In a French cemetery there are the following concise inscriptions on one tombstone.  The epitaph is for a husband and wife:

I am anxiously expecting you.   –A.D. 1827

Here I am!   –A.D.  1867

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“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.  He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.  We must feel what it is to face death, to most appreciate the enjoyments of life.  Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart; and never forget, that until the day God reveals the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.”

~ Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Lamentations 3:25-26  —  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.  It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

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Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd.
There’s one of us that’s humble; one that’s proud.
There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,
And one who, unrepentant, sits and grins.
There’s one who loves his neighbor as himself,
And one who cares for naught but fame and self.
From much corroding care would I be free
If once I could determine which is Me.

–Edwin S. Martin, “Mixed”

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THREE QUOTES ON TELLING THE TRUTH:

Who lies for you will lie against you.
~Bosnian Proverb

No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.
~Abraham Lincoln

Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.
~Thomas Carlyle

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     A woman entered the police station in tears.  “You must find my husband,” she cried.  “He has disappeared and I cannot live without him.”

     “Please lady, “the officer said, “You must calm down so we can ask you some questions.  How long has your husband been missing?”

     “I have not seen him since a week ago yesterday,” she said.

     “What?” said the officer, “He has been missing for over a week?  Why did you wait until today to let us know?”

     “Well,” the lady replied indignantly, “Today he gets his paycheck!”

     Sometimes we may be like that in our relationship with God.  We seek the Lord only when we need His help; not because we love Him, and not out of a sense of gratitude for all God has done for us.  Yet, we get very irritated when we are treated like that by people who are indebted to us far less than we are indebted to God.

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Hebrews 2:1  —  We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  

Psalm 14:2-3  —  The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.   All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Isaiah 55:6-7  —  Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

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For food in a world where many walk in hunger;

For faith in a world where many walk in fear;

For friends in a world where many walk alone;

We give you thanks, O Lord.  Amen.

1251) Words of Wisdom and Common Sense from C. S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the most brilliant writers who ever set pen to paper.  He was an insightful thinker, had remarkable common sense, and there may not have been anyone in the last century who was a better writer about the Christian faith and the human condition.  I have quoted him often, and here are a few more of his gems.

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Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.

If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once.  But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.”  If they mean that, I think they are wrong.  I think it is everything to be ashamed of.  There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.

There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us.  We have all we want is a terrible saying when all does not include God.  We find God an interruption.  As St Augustine says somewhere, “God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full— there’s nowhere for Him to put it.”  Or as a friend of mine said, “We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.”  Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him.  Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for.  While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him.  What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?

Our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world…, (so) when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it.  Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world.  There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.  If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society.

 If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

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Proverbs 1:7  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 3:13  —  Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.

James 3:13  —  Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

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PSALM 25:1…4-5:

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust…

Show me your ways, Lordteach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.

1194) Insights from C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), September 8, 1947 Time magazine cover

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On the present moment:

     Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future.  Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.”  It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for.  The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.  The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 1949.

James 4:13-15  —  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

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On faith and feelings:

     It is a great joy to be able to ‘feel’ God’s love as a reality, and one must give thanks for it and use it.  But you must be prepared for the feeling dying away again, for feelings are by nature impermanent.  The great thing is to continue to believe when the feeling is absent:  and these periods do quite as much for one as those when the feeling is present.  –From a July 23, 1953 letter to Mary Van Deusen

It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you…  (But) it is not the sensations that are the real thing.  The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be— perhaps not ever— experienced as a sensation or emotion.  The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system.  Don’t depend on them.  Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too.  But it won’t.  It will be there when you can’t feel it.  It may even be most operative when you can feel it least.  –From Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 3

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On what it is to depend on God alone:

     It is a dreadful truth that the state of ‘having to depend solely on God’ is what we all dread most.  And of course that just shows how very much, how almost exclusively, we have been depending on ‘things.’  That trouble goes so far back in our lives and is now so deeply ingrained, we will not turn to Him as long as He leaves us anything else to turn to… (Such times are) bound to come.  In the hour of death and the day of judgement, what else shall we have?  Perhaps when those moments come, they will feel happiest who have been forced (however unwillingly) to begin practicing it here on earth.  It is good of Him to force us: but dear me, how hard to feel that it is good at the time…  –From a December 6, 1955  letter to Mary Willis Shelburne

Isaiah 26:3  —  You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

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On anticipating death:

What a state we have got into when we can’t say ‘I’ll be happy when God calls me’ without being afraid one will be thought ‘morbid’.  After all, St. Paul said just the same (Philippians 1:21).  If we really believe what we say we believe— if we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home’, why should we not look forward to the arrival?  There are, aren’t there, only three things we can do about death: to desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it.  The third alternative, which is the one the modern world calls ‘healthy’ is surely the most uneasy and precarious of all.  –From a June 7, 1959 letter to Mary Willis Shelburne

Philippians 1:21  —  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

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On wanting something too much:

You can’t, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can’t get the best out of it.  ‘Now! Let’s have a real good talk’ reduces everyone to silence.  ‘I must get a good sleep tonight’ ushers in hours of wakefulness.  Delicious drinks are wasted on a really ravenous thirst.  –From A Grief Observed.

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On Christian love:

Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves— to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.  That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.  –From Mere Christianity

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On recognizing and knowing each other in heaven:

The symbols under which Heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert.  It would be grotesque to suppose that the guests or citizens or members of the choir didn’t know one another.  And how can love of one another be commanded in this life if it is to be cut short at death?

From The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 3

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Gracious Father, be pleased to touch our hearts in time with trouble, with sorrow, with sickness, with disappointment, with anything that will keep them from being hard to the end, and leading us to eternal ruin.  Amen.

–Thomas Arnold (1795-1842)

1160) George Washington Carver

English: George Washington Carver (1864 – 1943...

 

       George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was one of the 20th century’s greatest scientists.  He rose from slavery to become one of the world’s most respected and honored men.  He devoted his life to understanding nature and applied his knowledge to the area of agriculture.  He is best known for developing crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovering hundreds of new uses for crops.  Carver’s scientific discoveries included more than three hundred different products derived from the peanut, some one hundred from sweet potatoes, and seventy-five different uses for the pecan.  His accomplishments did much to challenge the then widespread belief that the black man was of inferior intelligence.

When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’  But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’  So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’  Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’  And he told me.”

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and of the strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.

Learn to do common things uncommonly well; we must always keep in mind that anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable.

When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.

Where there is no vision, there is no hope.

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.

We have become ninety-nine percent money mad.  The method of living at home modestly and within our income, laying a little by systematically for the proverbial rainy day which is due to come, can almost be listed among the lost arts.

It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts.  These mean nothing.  It is simply service that measures success.

     God and science were both areas of interest, not warring ideas in the mind of George Washington Carver.  He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.  George Washington Carver became a Christian when he was ten years old. When he was still a young boy, he was not expected to live past his twenty-first birthday due to failing health.  He lived well past the age of twenty-one, and his beliefs deepened as a result.  Throughout his career, he always found friendship and safety in the fellowship of other Christians.  Dr. Carver viewed faith in Jesus as a means of destroying both barriers of racial disharmony and social stratification.  He was as concerned with his students’ character development as he was with their intellectual development.  He even compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues for his students to emulate and strive toward:

· Be clean both inside and out.
· Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
· Lose, if need be, without squealing.
· Win without bragging.
· Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
· Be too brave to lie.
· Be too generous to cheat.
· Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

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James 2:1-4 — My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

James 2:8-9 — If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

Colossians 3:17 — Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

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A MORNING PRAYER:  Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  –Book of Common Prayer

999) Wisdom from Malcolm Muggeridge (b)

British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge  (1903-1990)

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“This lamentable phrase, ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ is responsible for a good part of the ills and miseries of the modern world.”

“When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now most futile and absurd.  For instance, success in all of its various guises; being known and being praised; ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or traveling, going to and fro in the world, exploring and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer.  In retrospect all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy.”

“I never met a rich man who was happy, but I have only very occasionally met a poor man who did not want to become a rich man.”

Ecclesiastes 1:13-2:11 (portions)  —  I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens…  I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind…  I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.”  Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.  For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.   I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.”  But that also proved to be meaningless…  I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly— my mind still guiding me with wisdom.  I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.  I undertook great projects:  I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.  I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.  I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees…  I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.  I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.  I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well— the delights of a man’s heart.  I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me…  I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…  Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

———-

“Future historians will surely see us as having created in the media a Frankenstein monster whom no one knows how to control or direct, and marvel that we should have so meekly subjected ourselves to its destructive and often malign influence.”

“What is called Western Civilization is in an advanced state of decomposition, and another Dark Ages will soon be upon us, if, indeed, it has not already begun.  With the media governing all our lives, as they indubitably do, it is easily imaginable that this might happen without our noticing, by accustoming us to the gradual deterioration of our values.”

“The media have, indeed, provided the Devil with perhaps the greatest opportunity accorded him since Adam and Eve were turned out of the Garden of Eden.”

“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense.  Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself…”

Ephesians 6:10-13a  —  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…

———-

“I suppose that every age has its own particular fantasy:  ours is science.  A seventeenth-century man like Blaise Pascal, who thought himself a mathematician and scientist of genius, found it quite ridiculous that anyone should suppose that rational processes could lead to any ultimate conclusions about life, but he easily accepted the authority of the Scriptures.  With us, it is the other way around.”

“The greatest artists, saints, philosophers, and, until quite recent times, scientists, have all assumed that the New Testament promise of eternal life is valid.  I’d rather be wrong with Dante and Shakespeare and Milton, with Augustine of Hippo and Francis of Assisi, with Dr. Johnson, Blake, and Dostoevsky, than right with Voltaire, Rousseau, the Huxleys, Herbert Spencer, H. G. Wells, and Bernard Shaw.”  (or Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens, etc.).

“One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we’ve developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity.  It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing.  The truth is much worse:  they believe in anything.”

“Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope.  The person of Jesus Christ.”

Psalm 10:4  —  In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 14:1a  —  The fool says in his heart, “There is no God…”

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The ‘conclusion of the matter’ in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14:

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

998) Wisdom from Malcolm Muggeridge (a)

Malcolm Muggeridge  (1903-1990), British journalist, joined the Roman Catholic Church in the 1970’s after doing a story on Mother Teresa and being inspired by her faith and life.

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“Supposing you eliminated suffering, what a dreadful place the world would be!  I would almost rather eliminate happiness.  The world would be the most ghastly place because everything that corrects the tendency of this unspeakable little creature, man, to feel over-important and over-pleased with himself would disappear.  He’s bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered.”

“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained.”

“As an old man…looking back on one’s life, it’s one of the things that strikes you most forcibly– that the only thing that’s taught one anything is suffering.  Not success, not happiness, not anything like that.  The only thing that really teaches one what life’s about is suffering, affliction.”

Romans 5:3-4  —  …We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

———-

“I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die.  For these two discoveries I am beholden to Jesus.”

Matthew 16:24-26  —   Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

———-

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

“How do I know pornography depraves and corrupts?  It depraves and corrupts me.”

Philippians 4:8  —  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

———-

“The only ultimate disaster that can befall us is to feel ourselves at home on this earth.”

Hebrews 11:13  —  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Near the end of his life:  “Like a prisoner awaiting his release, like a schoolboy when the end of term is near, like a migrant bird ready to fly south, I long to be gone.”

———-

“In the end, coming to faith remains for all a sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant.”

Luke 15:17-20  —  From the parable of the Prodigal Son.  (Jesus said), “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

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God, stay with me, let no word cross my lips that is not your word, no thoughts enter my mind that are not your thoughts, no deed ever be done or entertained by me that is not your deed.

–Malcolm Muggeridge

890) Wisdom from Around the World

———-

He who builds according to everyone’s advice will have a crooked house.  –Holland

One must build with the stones one has.  –Denmark

If there is no wind, row.  –Poland

Do not choose your spouse at a dance, but on the field amongst the workers.  –Czechoslovakia

To change and to improve are two different things.  –Germany

Even a misfortune may prove useful in three years.  –Japan

If one man says you are a jack ass, don’t pay any attention.  If ten men call you an ass, put on a saddle.  –Arab

A bold heart is half the battle.  –Roman

In a land where there are no eagles, the sparrow pretends he is an eagle.  –Borneo

Every cabin has its mosquitoes.  –West Indies

The medicine man is not esteemed in his own village.  –Kenya

Grasp all, lose all.. –Roman

Forbidden goods find many buyers.  –Russia

After your fling, watch out for the sting.  –England

If the cat scratches you, don’t beat the dog.  –Ireland

A fire in the heart brings smoke in the head.  –Switzerland

When you go to a donkey house, don’t talk about ears.  –Jamaica

Two pieces of meat confuse the mind of the fly.  –Nigeria

He that has choice, has trouble.  –Holland

The heart is like a goat that must be tied up.  –Bantu

Always sunshine makes a desert.  –Arab

Man began to learn when he became short of bread.  –Ukraine

One is not smelled where all stink.  –Roman

Tell the truth and flee.  –Montenegro

Remember the end.  –Greece

There is often a wise head under a tattered hat.  –Slovakia

In calm water every ship has a good captain.  –Switzerland

A lie can give more pain than a spear.  –Nigeria

Though the emperor has wealth he cannot buy 10,000 years.  –China

Cherish the body overmuch, and you harm the soul.  –Czechoslovakia

Hunger sweetens the beans.  –Roman

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Proverbs 1:1-7  —  The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
    the sayings and riddles of the wise.

 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 3:13-14  —  Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.

Proverbs 28-26  —  Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

Acts 7:22  —  Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

Psalm 90:12  —  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

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Almighty and eternal God, you know our problems and our weaknesses better than we ourselves.  In your love and by your power help us in our confusion and, in spite of our weakness, make us firm in faith; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, #96

881) Wisdom

He who limps is still walking.

–Stanislaw J. Lec

———-

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but religiously follows the new.

–Henry David  Thoreau

———-

Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.

–Clarence Thomas

———-

Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue.

———-

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

———

You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

———-

Use what talents you possess.  The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.

———-

It is never a question with any of us of faith or no faith; the question always is, ‘In what or in whom do we put our faith?’

———-

Temptation, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.

———-

It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.

–Ben Franklin

———-

Everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.

–Pope John Paul II

———-

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

John Wooden

———-

We don’t need more strength or more ability or greater opportunity.  What we need is to use what we have.

–Basil Walsh

———-

It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.

J. K. Rowling

———-

Don’t cry because it is over; smile because it happened.

–Dr. Suess

———-

Happiness is like a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne

———-

Rather fail with honor than succeed with fraud.

–Sophocles

———-

It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.

–Mark Twain

———

Success is never final, and failure is never fatal: it’s courage that counts.

———-

Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.

–Phillip Brooks

———-

To do for the world more than the world does for you– that is success.

–Henry Ford

———-

No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.

–Charles Dickens

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Proverbs 1:7  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:13  —  Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.

Psalm 111:10  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.  To him belongs eternal praise.

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O God of all ages, grant that I, who am the heir of all the ages, may not fail to profit by the heavenly wisdom which in time past Thou didst grant to Thy servants.

A wise man wrote,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

O God, give me grace to profit by this word.

A wise man wrote,

Our wills are ours to make them Thine.

O God, give me grace to profit by this word.

A wise king said, 

Nothing for me is too early or too late which is in due time for Thee. 

O God, give me grace to profit by this word.

A wise man said, 

Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.

O God, give me grace to profit by this word.

A wise man said, 

In His will is our peace.

O God, give me grace to profit by this word.

A wise woman said, 

The divine moment is the present moment.

O God, give me grace to profit by this word.

A wise woman said, 

He asks too much to whom God is not sufficient.

O God, give me grace to profit by this word.

A wise man prayed,

Give what Thou command, and command what Thou wilt.

O God, give me grace to pray this prayer.

A wise man prayed,

My past life hide; my future life guide.

O God, give me grace to pray this prayer.

Grant, O Father, that I may go about this day’s business with an ever-present remembrance of the great traditions wherein I stand and the great cloud of witnesses which at all times surround me, that thereby, I may be kept from evil ways and inspired to high endeavor.  So keep me until evening in the might of Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie, 1949, Morning Prayer, Twenty-fifth Day