Daily Archives: October 30, 2011
The StrangerA few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on. As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche.My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger… he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind. Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet.
(I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.) Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. After our long time visitor stayed longer he became more daring however, and even got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis.He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing..
I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked… And NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?….We just call him ‘TV.’
Note: This should be required reading for every household!)
He has a wife now….we call her ‘Computer.’
Their first child is “Cell Phone”.
Second child “I Pod “
OH MY—-HOW TRUE THIS IS!!!
(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”)
Lesson 19 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
I want to encourage you today that God is working for your good in ALL situations that you’re facing, if you love Him and are called according to His purpose. He really is FOR you, and even in those things that seem hardest, you can trust that He can work even in those things for your good.
I’ve been reading the book Pollyanna this week to my kids. The book was written back in 1913 about an eleven year old girl whose contagious optimism transformed an entire town. If you’ve ever heard someone described as a “pollyanna,” it’s a term that came from this book.
But as I read the book this week again, I realized that for all her optimism, Pollyanna was in no way a naive little girl who was ignorant about the real pain that people face in life. Her profound optimism wasn’t the result of ignorance, it was the way she was able to keep sane and healthy in spite of severe losses she faced. Born on the mission field, Pollyanna lost her mother when she was young, and lost her father when she was eleven. She was sent to live with her severely stern and strict aunt on the East Coast, where she often had to fight back tears at the unfair treatment she received.
Yet with all the bad that was thrown at her, Pollyanna chose to train her mind to try to see the good in life, believing that there was always something she could be glad about. It was something she learned from her father when she was on the mission field. He called it the “glad game.”
In talking about the game to a woman named Nancy, Pollyanna said:
“We began it when some crutches came in a missionary barrel. You see, I’d wanted a doll. But when the barrel came the lady wrote that no dolls came in, just the little crutches. So she sent ‘em along. The game was to find something about everything to be glad about, no matter what. We began right then—on the crutches.”
Nancy said, “I can’t see anythin’ to be glad about–gettin’ a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll.”
“There is— there is,” Pollyanna crowed. “I couldn’t see it either at first. Father had to tell it to me. You just be glad because you don’t—need—’em! You see, it’s easy when you know how! Only sometimes it’s almost too hard, like when your father goes to Heaven” (from Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter).
Rather than being naive about life, it was Pollyanna’s disappointments in life that helped her to see things in a whole new light. She went on playing the “glad game” in her new town, helping the people see that no matter what they faced in life, there was always something to be glad about. Without giving away too much of the story, Pollyanna even found a way to be thankful when she had to use crutches by the end of the book.
In a similar way, the Apostle Paul is known for saying some of the most optimistic things in his letters in the New Testament. For instance, in his letter to the Philippians he wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Some people might think, “Sure, that’s easy for Paul to say, as he was one of the most highly educated and influential people in the early church.” But the truth is, Paul saw more suffering in his lifetime than most of us would ever see in ten or twelve lifetimes, if we were able to live that many. Paul wrote:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 23b-30).
Yet in spite of all this, Paul was still able to encourage people to “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul explained why we can rejoice always. He wrote:
“And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis added).
I have quoted this verse more often—to myself and to others—than perhaps any other verse in the Bible. It’s a statement that I’ve tested for myself and found to be true over and over again. It’s not just a “pollyanna” way of looking at the world. It’s a truth that God has given us to hold onto tightly, knowing that no matter how things look in the situations that we’re facing, we can trust Him to work in those situations for our good, if we’re willing to trust them to Him.
But like Pollyanna in the book, there are times when finding the good in a situation seems like a daunting task. But rather than running away from such tasks, Pollyanna relished them. At one point, a sick and bedridden woman challenged Pollyanna to find something in her situation that she could be glad about. Pollyanna sprang to her feet and clapped her hands. She said:
“Oh goody, that’ll be a hard one—won’t it? I’ve got to go, now, but I’ll think and think all the way home. Goodbye, I’ve had a lovely time!”
And Pollyanna did think and think, coming up with several ideas, one of which was to encourage the woman to be glad she had her hands and arms. That simple statement made the woman wonder why she didn’t do something with her hands and arms, so she began to knit little things for fairs and hospitals. She became so glad to think she could do something with them.
I think people sometimes view me as being a little too “pollyanna-ish,” too, when I tell them to trust God completely in every situation that He can work it for our good. But I’ve found that sometimes when I tell people stories of God’s faithfulness to me in my life, they often don’t realize, or take seriously when I tell them, how desperate the situations I’ve prayed through have truly been. They only hear the outcome of the stories, knowing that somehow God turned even awful situations into something good.
I think that’s the way we sometimes read the stories in the Bible, too. Since we already know how they end, we can sometimes gloss over how dramatic the turnarounds really were.
For instance, when Moses and the Israelites were up against the Red Sea, with no where to turn and the chariots from Egypt pressing in, all of a sudden, God opened up the Red Sea so they could pass through on dry ground. It was a near-death experience for them all, yet God delivered them through it. But since it only takes a few paragraphs to read through the whole story, we don’t always get the sense of impending doom that the people must have felt. I imagine Moses went through some serious questions for God about how God could possibly work this one out for good. Yet God told Moses to stand firm, and he would indeed see God’s deliverance…and he did (see Exodus, chapter 14).
Or when Daniel spent the night in the lion’s den and came out alive the next day. People may just think that Daniel found a safe place to hide or that the lion’s just weren’t that hungry. But if you read the story closely, you’ll see that as soon as Daniel was lifted out of the lion’s den, those who had falsely accused Daniel were thrown into the den themselves, and the text says: “before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.” I imagine Daniel had some serious questions for God about how God could possibly work this one out for good. Yet Daniel was extracted without even a wound on him (see Daniel, chapter 6).
When we hear stories of God’s faithfulness to others, we tend to minimize the adversity they faced, and maximize God’s faithfulness in bringing them through it. Yet when we experience our own life-dramas, we tend to maximize the adversity we’re facing, and minimize the possibility of God’s ability of bringing us through it.
Today, I want to stir up your faith. I want to help you see the truth that God is working for your good, if you love Him and are called according to His purpose. I want to encourage you to keep putting your faith in Christ. Regarding the situations you’re facing in life today, ask yourself:
“What good might God be doing through this? What good might come out of what I’m going through right now? What might God be doing that I can hang onto in faith, and hope for, and pray towards? What good might God be doing on my behalf right now?”
God wants to turn your thinking around today. He wants you to see that He really can—and does—work all things for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.
This isn’t just a “glad game” from a children’s story. This is a truth from God, recorded in His Word, in order to help you see your life the way He sees it, full of hope and promise and significance.
God loves you and really will work for your good in ALL things, if you love Him and have been called according to His purpose.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for showing us that there are different ways to look at the things we’re going through in life. Help us to look at the things we’re facing and see them as You see them. Help us to look for and to see the good that You’re working in those situations so that we can face them with courage and faith. Help us to overcome our weakness so that we can keep putting our trust in You for everything in lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. I’ve had several people ask me this week about ordering some of my books and CD’s as gifts for the holidays. As I’ve been sending them out to people, I thought I’d mention it to you, too, as they do make great gifts… not just because I helped create each of them, but because they inspire people in their faith in Christ. If you’d like to take a look at each of the books and CD’s I’ve helped to create over the years, just visit the link below:
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 8:28. Having read some about Paul’s life, how might the trials Paul faced in life helped him to come to the point of believing that God really could work for his good in ALL things?
2. If faith is like a muscle that gets stronger and stronger the more we use it, what kinds of things might God put someone through to help them grow as strong in their faith as possible?
3. What good might God be doing in the situations you’re facing in life right now?
4. Like Pollyanna, what can you find to be glad about in those situations?
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The Chinese have a saying that goes something like this:
Anja tapped her pen against the desk impatiently. Only one hour had passed since she had started work. The expansive office was too cold for her liking, the dumbstruck fish in the aquarium continued to ogle at her and her useless colleague was always asking for help. A fish in the aquarium caught her eye, it was not moving but instead staring, or appeared to do so. Was this the height of her career, staring at a fish? Those big, ambitious and naive plans of the 20-something year old she used to be had been punctured long ago, the remnants leaking disappointment. Pathetically, she could see herself in that dumbstruck fish. She blinked and lost sight of the fish that had first caught her eye, they all looked the same and she could not distinguish one from the other. Desperately she searched, her eyes burned with tears, had she too been swept away as a nobody?
- Ermisenda Alvarez
Oh fishy, fishy
what could it be
that you see
when looking at me?
Does it occur
that we’re a blur
am I obscure
or are you unsure?
Oh fishy, fishy
wish I could be
a little fishy
out in the sea
I’d swim away
in light of day
from this decay
of our society today
Oh fishy, fishy
just to be free
would probably be
your wish same as me!
Teresa Marie 10/30/11
This week’s submission for picture it & write at: http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/