LITTLE THINGS

Shew me a token for good…because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me. Psalm 86:17 (KJV)

Ordinarily, I’m not someone who looks for “signs,” but when my husband told me to begin planning for my first transatlantic flight, I needed reassurance. Peter had traveled widely prior to our marriage, but I’d never flown so long over the water. I wasn’t exactly afraid, but I didn’t relish all those hours suspended over the ocean.

Our destination was Ireland, and I would have an opportunity to see firsthand the beauty of the Emerald Isle. I threw myself into preparations, hoping to ease or forget my apprehension. Still, I couldn’t get rid of that nagging anxiety.

Chastising myself for lack of trust, I recalled verses of Scripture that related to God’s protection. Nothing seemed to help. I was too embarrassed to admit to my family or friends that I, a Bible study teacher and mentor, was nervous about such a silly thing. Privately, I prayed about my misgivings and surrendered them to the Lord.

The night before we were to leave, a simple thing happened. I stepped into the shower before going to bed and was surprised by the most wonderful scent. Someone, I still don’t know who, had placed in the soap dish a bar of Irish Spring hand soap which literally permeated the atmosphere with hope, joy, and reassurance. I knew it would be a wonderful trip.

Nowadays I spend days and nights on planes going to our various mission ministries around the world, and I am always grateful for God’s patience in giving me such a little thing to assure me he was in control. He prepared me for what he had prepared for me.

Father, your kindness and mercy are beyond comprehension. You answer our prayers and reassure us in the most unexpected ways. Help us to be open to any way in which you choose to comfort and care for us. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

WHAT HAPPENED?

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NIV)

Reggie was a beautiful little four-year-old – curly blonde hair and vibrant blue eyes—a real charmer. Happily, by the time he got to my class, I had a few years of teaching under my belt and was certified to work with “special” children.

In our first parent conference, Reggie’s caring parents asked if I’d be willing to work with the three psychologists who were overseeing Reggie’s developmental and behavioral issues. Of course, I wanted to do what I could to get this little guy on the right track.

At first, it was really easy. With small classes, my aide and I could keep an eye on Reggie, make notations on his chart every five minutes, and encourage him to participate appropriately. For a few weeks and with our guidance, he was a model student.

Then one day it happened. I was teaching, when suddenly Reggie exploded, shot out of his chair, and began jumping on tables and overturning empty chairs. I looked at my aide, and she immediately ushered the other students from the room while I softly talked to Reggie in an attempt to quiet him. Eventually, Reggie calmed down, and I was able to pull him onto my lap to talk.

“Reggie,” I said, “you’ve had so many good days. You’ve been doing so well. What happened?”

Without hesitation, Reggie responded, penitently, “Teacher, I ran out of nice.” Immediately, I understood.

The team and Reggie and I worked well together, and by year’s end there were no more outbursts, and he went on to become a lovely young man. But before then, he had other days when he “ran out of nice.”

I’ve done that. I’ve expended all my efforts trying to do what I knew I should (sometimes like Paul’s quandary in Romans 7) and failed. I’ve run out of nice. And then I remember that there really isn’t any good thing in my flawed humanity but only what Christ produces in and through me. So I have to make a U-turn and get back to the Source, the Source of nice, of goodness, of perfect love. And that Source never runs out.

Father, help me to stay focused on you and to live in you so that what comes out of me is your love, your kindness, your beauty. Remind me that I can do nothing without you, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

FIND PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN YOU

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

My friend Norma sent this to me. It was too good not to share:

Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Why does the Bible say, “Carry each other’s burdens”? Because one person can only carry a burden so far on their own.

American novelist John Kennedy Toole quickly discovered that. As a young writer he worked alone writing a novel in New Orleans. When it was finished he sent it to publisher after publisher, but they all turned him down. Overcome by rejection, he took his own life. Some time after the funeral, his mother found a coffee-stained manuscript in the attic and took it to a professor at Louisiana State University who agreed to read it. Immediately, he recognized its genius and recommended it to a major publisher.

After its release, John Kennedy Toole’s novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, won a Pulitzer Prize and was heralded as one of the major novels of the Twentieth Century. If only he’d surrounded himself with friends who knew how to share his burden, encourage him when he faced rejection, and motivate him to keep going, his life would have turned out very differently.

So the word for you today is, “Find people who believe in you.” Encourage and support them, and welcome their support in return. Spend more time with those who sharpen you and make you better, and less time with those who drain your energy, time, and talent. The truth is, friends who speak encouragement into your life are priceless. Their words are “like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 NIV).

Chaplain Danny Hubbell
Special Forces Ministries

Father, all of us need encouragement from time to time. Help us to humble ourselves to receive the kindness of friends as well as extending it to those who may also need help bearing their loads. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

WORDS

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

Have you ever heard the children’s nursery rhyme that says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” This was first cited in 1862 and was an encouragement to ignore taunts and criticism intended to wound. That may be very well in a rhyme, but the truth is that words can hurt. Poet Will Carleton wrote, “Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead, but God himself can’t kill them when they’re said.”

Our words are expressions of the heart and the mind. As God’s children, we are called to let [our] conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt… We can use words of grace that bless the hearer and season them with salt to avoid corruption and to bring reasoning to the discussion. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we thought before we spoke and if we prayed that whatever came from our mouths would encourage or build up or in some way bless our hearers?

Father, begin with me. I want my tongue to be an instrument of blessing and not cursing. I yield my whole self to you to be your instrument of grace, truth, love, and peace. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

BEYOND THEMSELVES

Did you hear the comments of any of the family members of those who died in Charleston? They were given the opportunity of speaking to the accused shooter at the bond hearing, and without exception, they said, “I forgive you.” One even went so far as to encourage the young defendant to turn to Jesus Christ and accept his forgiveness and salvation.

These were real people under real stress dealing with real loss. And when it was their turn to speak, they responded. They didn’t react. Their lives spoke volumes through the few words that each had to say. I forgive you. The same words they had heard Jesus say to them.

You know the analogy of the tea bag and the tea cup? You never know what’s inside until immersed in hot water. These Charlestonians, these Christians, showed us all—not just the accused—what was inside, and it was all Jesus. They were quoting Jesus and responding to what he had done for them.

They knew that to whom much is given, of him shall much be required. Can we, will we pass that test?

Father, wrap your arms of love around those precious people who’ve showed us your love and forgiveness. Comfort them and use their strong witness to grieving hearts around the world. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

BLESSINGS

…he maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45 (KJV)

After a drought of approximately five years, Texas has been saturated with rains—some gentle and some causing serious flooding. The wildflowers have been glorious, and we are seeing lush landscapes such as have been nonexistent for years. All because of the rain.

Has it occurred to you to notice that the rain falls on good people and on people we might judge to be bad? That’s what Jesus says in the Matthew passage above. God sends blessings—like rain—on everyone. Romans 2:4 goes on to say that God’s kindness is poured out to bring people to repentance.

If we wanted someone to repent, would we want to beat him into submission or would we, like God, saturate that person with kindness? Even our folk wisdom tells us that we can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Father, again you teach us that your love, your mercy, your goodness changes us in ways that no amount of criticism or disparaging could ever do. Remind us of your kindness to us and help us to reflect that every day to the people in our lives. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

BLOOMING

“…he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…” John 15: 5 (KJV)

On various occasions I have been given delicate Phalaenopsis orchids, those wonderfully exotic flowering plants that appear to be so fragile. I have learned an interesting principle from these beautiful bits of creation. Given the right light and moisture, they continue to bloom year after year—it is their nature.

I have not taken the time to research orchids nor have I joined the local orchid society. All I do is put a spoon of water in their pots every week, and they faithfully bloom. But this is not about orchids.

I have noticed that there are some people who, like orchids, can always be counted on to bloom. Somehow, they stay in the Light, stay connected to the Source of their growth, and they constantly seem to be watered by the Spirit. Because they are intrinsically beautiful, they beautify their environment, and they bring joy and encouragement just by being.

I think that is what is meant by abiding.

Father, keep us in you so that your beauty shows through us. Amen.

HOSPITALITY

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Webster defines hospitality as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.” The Bible tells us we are to practice hospitality; that a church leader is to be hospitable; and that we are to be hospitable without grumbling. One might almost think hospitality was expected of its members by the early Church.

It’s easy today to think that being hospitable requires gourmet food, elegant table settings, decorator appointed rooms, and professional entertainment. But Webster indicates hospitality is determined by the way we treat people. The Greek definition of hospitality in the Bible is being friendly. That sounds like something we can all do—be friendly and generous in the way we treat people. It doesn’t take money; it takes an open heart and an open door.

Lord, use my home as a place where people will feel welcomed and loved. Fill it with your presence and your joy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.