Charity. Generosity. Stewardship.

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Today’s quote is from Francis Quarles, an English poet who was born May 8, 1592 and died September 8, 1644: “Proportion thy charity to the strength of thy estate, lest God proportion thy estate to the weakness of thy charity. Let the lips of the poor be the trumpet of thy gift, lest in seeking applause thou lose thy reward. Nothing is more pleasing to God than an open hand and a closed mouth.”

These are powerful statements, each of which is corroborated by the following equally powerful Scripture passages:

Luke 6:38: Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you … For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

1 Cor. 13:3: Paul wrote, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

Luke 21:2: Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Luke 18:9-14: The Pharisee boasted about his tithe but the tax collector dared not to lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” Jesus said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

2 Cor. 9:7, 11: “God loves a cheerful giver … You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.”

God bless your generosity through charitable giving, demonstrating your faithful stewardship of the blessings he has entrusted to your care!

The Head. The Guest. The Listener.

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Today’s quote is from Confucius: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

All-knowing Wikipedia says Confucius was born in 551 BC and died in 479 BC.  He was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher who emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity.

In addition to being quoted frequently in Chinese fortune cookies, Confucius is traditionally credited with having authored or edited many of the Chinese classic texts, emphasizing common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives.

He also recommended family as a basis for ideal government and espoused the well-known Golden Rule principle, stated a bit differently from the more familiar rendition: “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”

Better than the words of Confucius are the words of the plaque on the wall of my childhood home: “Christ is the head of this home, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” Wouldn’t it be great if that plaque were hanging on the wall in every home?

And how about what Jesus said to the man who asked, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

If those who looked at the words on that plaque and who held the words of Jesus in their heart would take them seriously, putting the world in order would be not only possible but also feasible and attainable.

That’s a big “if” in our world today! But we have to start somewhere. How about in your home and heart … and in mine? Love Jesus with all you are and all you have! Invite him to be The Head, The Listener, The Guest in your home!

Loneliness and Fear

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Today’s quote is from Holy Scripture in the words of King David: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16

There are many reasons people become lonely, three of which are on my mind today. The first is loneliness that develops at the time of death of a loved one. The second is loneliness that occurs when one has been diagnosed with a serious, even fatal disease. The third is loneliness simply from living alone, whether at home or in an extended care facility.

In each circumstance the loneliness is often accompanied by feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, hunger, boredom, despair, or even depression. The initial loneliness is often exacerbated by the absence of family or friends with whom the lonely person can share the feelings listed above.

To make matters worse, more often than not such friends and even family members are reluctant to call or visit the person whose affliction has produced the loneliness. One reason for such reluctance is uncertainty about what to say or do that will make the afflicted person feel better.

My encouragement is for you to pick up the phone and call that person in your life described by this article. Perhaps begin with something like: “I heard of your loss/illness/move (or it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other) and just wanted to call to let you know that you are in my heart and in my prayers. Is there anything I might be able to do for you at this time?”

Then simply let the person talk. Avoid trying to make him or her feel better by referring to your own experiences with loneliness. Instead, try to think of things to say that will convey your sincere concern and that might stimulate further conversation, no matter how brief.

If you feel confident doing so, conclude the conversation with a prayer for God’s comfort, love, and guidance. If you’re not confident in actually praying aloud, simply assure the person with whom you’re speaking of your prayers and love. Then follow through on that assurance with a note or another call or a personal visit to provide further encouragement and support.

David cried out in his loneliness to the Lord, who responded with comfort and blessing. That caused David to exclaim a couple chapters later: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

Troubles and Worries

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Today’s quote is from Edward Everett Hale: “Never bear more than one kind of trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds—all they have had in the past, all they have now, and all they expect to have in the future.”

This quote reminds me of the game of golf. It’s so hard to forget the terrible shot you just made and tempting to worry about the one you’ll be facing after the one you’re fixin’ to make.

But here’s the reality. You can’t undo the shot you just made. It is what it is. If it’s in the cactus, it’s in the cactus. Deal with it! And you don’t know what shot you’ll be required to make after you get out of the cactus. So all you can do now is just be sure you get out of the cactus!

Life is very much the same. What happened yesterday or last year or 50 years ago, happened. It cannot be undone. Deal with it! If it was the result of sin, ask God for forgiveness. And trust his promise written by the apostle Paul: “Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures through the riches of his grace (overflowing kindness).” (Eph. 1:7)

And there’s no way to know what’s gonna’ happen in the future, so there’s absolutely no positive result to be gained by worrying about what might happen tomorrow. Just take care of today.

Jesus gave that advice a long time ago in his Sermon on the Mount. He was talking about the futility of worrying about life, food, drink, or clothing. He told his listeners about God’s provision for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air.

And then he said: “So do not worry … your heavenly Father knows you need these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:31-34)

God’s peace be with you!

Aging

Elderly

Today’s quotes:

“It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.”
– Edward R. Bulwer-Lytton

“To be 70 years young is sometime far more cheerful and hopeful than to be 40 years old.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week Terry and I are attending a conference on aging. We’re spending three days with a number of pastors and their spouses, all within a few years of my age. Some are a bit younger but all of us are at or near the three score plus ten number.

Most people who reach that age have experienced their share of joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, difficulties and blessings. That’s the stuff of which life is made.

Sorrows, defeats, and difficulties tend to accelerate the aging process, sometimes leading to pessimism, depression, or despair. Joys, victories, and blessings often delay the obvious signs of age and produce a greater sense of optimism, appreciation, and generosity.

Physical health, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual maturity are very significant factors in the onset, delay, and effect of the aging process. Those qualities matter at all times, especially in the last quarter of life, particularly for those who may already have heard the two minute warning.

Regardless of your age or attitude toward life, consider God’s message to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah: “Even when you’re old, I’ll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I’ll support you.” Is. 46:4

Here’s to happy and graceful aging!

Last Words

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This week’s quotes are the seven last words of Jesus from the cross:

  1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
  2. To a thief on the cross: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
  3. To Mary: “Woman, behold your son.” To John: “Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27
  4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
  5. “I thirst.” John 19:28
  6. “It is finished.” John 19:30
  7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46

As you contemplate these words and their meaning in your life, Terry and I express to each of you our prayers for a blessed Holy Week and a joyful Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!

Special Women

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“Ruth and Naomi” by William Blake (1795)

Today’s quote is from an Old Testament woman named Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16

Ruth was speaking to Naomi, her mother-in-law. During a time of famine in Israel, Naomi had moved to the country of Moab with her husband and two sons. After Naomi’s husband died, her two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later Naomi’s sons also died.

After Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, she heard that the famine in Israel was over and decided to return to her home country of Israel. Initially her two daughters-in-law began the journey with her. But soon Naomi advised them to turn back and stay in their homeland.

At this crossroads in all their lives, Naomi strongly urged Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  Orpah decided to follow Naomi’s advice. But Ruth chose to go to Israel with her mother-in-law. In the midst of this decision, Ruth spoke the words quoted above.

Ruth went back to Israel with Naomi and married a man named Boaz. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. All were ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-16.

Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law was used by God to make her a very important woman in the history of the world and of Christianity. She is one on a long list of such special women.

Today’s topic of special women is not an accident. Beginning today, three of the special women in my life have birthdays in April. In descending order of chronological maturity, here they are:

  • Elda Maria Sophia Hellman Kieschnick is my mother. God willing, on April 10 she will be one hundred and one (101) years of age! My dear mother is known and loved by many!
  • Terry Lee Kieschnick is my wife. God willing, also on April 10 she will be … well let’s just say exactly a few decades younger than her dear mother-in-law. The two of them share a special bond of love that goes beyond being born on the same day in different years!
  • Angela Lynn Keith is our dear daughter. On April 6, which is today, she turns … well let’s just say several decades younger than her dear grandmother. Angie is also the mother of our sweet granddaughter Kayla Rae Keith, whose birthday we celebrate in August.

In addition, my sisters Carol Ann Wheaton, Karen Lynn Newman, and Debra Kay Zachary have birthdays in March, February, and November. No way I’m saying anything about their ages!

Happy birthday to each of these special women, all of whom have brought indescribable joy to my life and to the lives of many! I love all of you so very much and thank God for each of you!