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Being Humble Gives You Unparalleled Strength

What does it mean to live a life of humility?

The world in general and Americans in particular scorn meek leaders. They equate such a person as a Caspar Milquetoast, a character who existed in our national comics from 1925-1953 as “The Timid Soul.” Made famous by H.T. Webster, Caspar was a character who spoke softly and got hit with a big stick. Caspar was spineless and a person who was easily dominated and intimidated. Even his last name is a derivation of milk toast!

People will say, “Surely you aren’t suggesting our national leaders practice being meek in our dog eat dog society of today?” However, that is precisely what I am suggesting.

The Beatitudes

TissotBeatitudes
James Tissot, The Beatitudes Sermon, c. 1890, Brooklyn Museum

My understanding of what it means to be meek, i.e. humble, comes from my faith journey. About a decade ago I participated in a small group study of the beatitudes — a synopsis of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew, and I began to look at this topic from a different angle. Lots of people can recite the Ten Commandments, but not many can quote any of the beatitudes. A host of us, including me, also find them difficult to put into practice!

In thinking about the focus of this blog, my thoughts kept going back to the fourth beatitude. Here are two translations, plus my own paraphrase.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. ~ NRSV Matt. 5:5

You’re blessed when you are content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourself proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

The Message1280x1280

Happy is the person whose relationship with God overflows into actions of love toward all mankind. Such a person is comfortable in their own skin and doesn’t feel the need to constantly advertise his/her virtues to the world.

These translations bring with them some worthy goals for all of humankind:

  • Be gentle and then you can become bold and humble.
  • Be frugal and then you can be liberal.
  • Look at the world through your heart.

Being humble is accepting that without God’s wisdom and love I am empty.

Being humble is refusing to use one’s position of power for personal gain or as a tool of retaliation.

When politicians use the following talking points you can be sure that humility isn’t in their game plan:

  • I am never wrong.
  • No one can stop me.
  • I’m the only person who can fix our problems.
  • I have all the answers.

The humble resist making rash statements — especially false statements simply to gain political clout or to throw up a smokescreen to detract attention from a more divisive subject. Creating a life of humility is a daily practice that becomes fulfilling and trickles down to fill up our hearts and minds.


QUOTES I LIKE

A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.
— Albert Einstein

Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stay hungry, stay young, stay foolish, stay curious, and above all, stay humble because just when you think you got all the answers, is the moment when some bitter twist of fate in the universe will remind you that you very much don’t.
— Tom Hiddleston

Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.
— Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Following Jesus is very hard, though it is not complicated.
— John Pierce

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
— Rick Warren

Love Over Hate is My Course of Action

It is so very easy for each of us to express our anger visibly.  On the other hand, withholding judgment with those with whom we disagree requires giving criticism sparingly and acknowledging our solution might not be the best option.

We Americans are politically caught up in an aura of distrust while a multitude of hate groups, led by white supremacists, are often hailed as heroes.  I personally think that when it comes to politics the words compromise and respect are essential elements in a healthy society. Positions we and others take are seldom totally right or totally wrong. I’m old enough to remember a time when my husband and I, after casting our vote, would laughingly say, “I just cancelled your vote!”

Today, I turn to the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to enlighten my journey.  May his words speak to each of us.

There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

I have decided to stick to love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.

There comes a time when silence is betrayal.

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal.’

DrKing_Landing2

Photo of Dr. King from the website of The King Center in Atlanta, GA.

Certainly, there are various degrees involved in the concepts of love and hate.  It seems nothing profitable for our nation or the world would ever get done if someone didn’t get upset over something they deem immoral or despicable.  Our anger is only productive, though, if it evolves into acts that lead to healthy resolutions. However, unchecked anger, egged on by hate groups, can produce disastrous results.

That said, I offer some of my salient thoughts for 2020 while recognizing you have every right to disagree with me.

  • While respecting the legal rights of individuals or groups to the use a weapon for sports or self-defense, I will shun political candidates that either by their actions or rhetoric refuse to commit themselves to gun control measures on semi-automatic guns.
  • I can’t vote for a candidate who refuses to take a firm stand on human rights.  It’s past time we Americans respect each other regardless of skin color, sexual identity or religious preferences (including the right to have no faith).
  • I will not vote for a candidate–Republican, Democrat or Independent– who spends more time downgrading his/her opponents than they do in sharing their well- calculated proposals for improving the lives of all Americans.

Today and every day, I choose love over hate, and every day I choose to surround myself with others who do the same.


LWV history image

Contrary to the teasing of some current family members, I was not at this election, but I always vote. This image is from the League of Women Voters website, regarding their history.

The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.  The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public.  You can also register to vote, find your polling place, ballot info, and more at VOTE411.org.

 

Peace Prayer of St. Francis Is Gentle Reminder for All People

The new year began like so many prior years – I gave thoughtful reflection on the past 365 days, while I looked forward to what’s to come. In doing so, I realized that my 2020 pledge to myself is to explore the bedrock beliefs I want to see operating in my life as we move toward the election.  No sooner had 2020 arrived than chaos reared its ugly head, and I tremble for what may develop with our neighbors in the Middle East.

It’s a sad coincidence since I was already planning on writing this January blog about the Peace Prayer of St. Francis that resonates with people of all faiths and of all nations. The prayer reminds us that we can live a joyous and happy life created in our own unique rhythm while maintaining unity.

Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The bottom line: None of us has or ever will score 100 percent on the lofty ideals ascribed to in this prayer.  However, wouldn’t it be serendipitous to find ourselves and our political leaders in 2020 moving the conversation to civility and honestly seeking for points of acceptable compromise? 

Now, more than ever, uncertainty seems to keep knocking on the door, attempting to set us off course.  To counteract this insecurity, I also plan to carry with me throughout 2020 the thought found in the church bulletin of First Baptist Church of Chattanooga during December 2019:

“…may our hearts and minds open to give compassion recklessly, criticism sparingly, and forgiveness unconditionally.”

The Prayer of St. Francis and these words from my church bulletin echo through my mind more than ever, and I carry them with me each day. 


Read more:

Celebrating Saint Francis of Assisi

A Closer Look at the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve at First Baptist Church Chattanooga and as usually happens at holiday services our church is brimming with people.  A large Christ candle in the middle of the Advent wreath is lit and the solemn service of Scripture and music begins to unfold the story of Jesus’ birth.  It’s a very old story that is ever new!

The final action of our service is dramatic. As we entered the sanctuary each of us was given a small candle.  Now the electric lights are extinguished, and we find ourselves sitting in an inky black sanctuary.  One by one we light each other’s candle.  Gradually the light consumes the darkness.  We turn around and lift our lighted tapers high and sing in unison Silent Night.

We get the unspoken message. One little light doesn’t give off much light but collectively we can shake off the shackles, of fear, hatred, and dishonesty.


PRAYER THOUGHT

As we offer our gifts, may our hearts and minds open to give compassion recklessly, criticism sparingly, and forgiveness unconditionally.

Post Note:

This service for me isn’t yet over.  I have one more tradition to honor. For the past five years my adopted Parker family and I crowd into one of the booths at the local Waffle House and indulge in whatever suits our fancy.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Below is a video of a sister church in Texas that captures the solemnity of this beloved Christmas Eve meditation.

Christmas Eve at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

Advent Candle Reflects Love’s Positive Light

Yesterday marked the fourth Sunday of Advent and the lighting of the love candle.

Have you noticed how often we malign the word love? We love pizzas, a new car, a promotion at work, a bought outfit … the list is endless!

However, the love reflected by the rays of the love candle is unfathomable.  Don’t ask me to explain it with words because I can’t do it justice.  God, our Heavenly Father, chose to come to earth as a tiny baby so we would know how deeply He loves each of us.  Madeleine L’Engle in her book, The Glorious Impossible, says, “The birth of Jesus was a Glorious Impossible.  Like love, it cannot be explained, it can only be rejoiced in.  Possible things are easy to believe.  The Glorious Impossible is what brings joy to our hearts, hope to our lives, and songs to our lips.”

One of my favorite monologues from my book Advent Encounters is Anna, and I’d like to share it with you.

ANNA

Hello, I’m Anna.  I wasn’t always as you see me now.  My wrinkled, gnarled limbs were once smooth and my gray hair was as black as a starless night.  You probably find it hard to believe my poor arthritic body once ran with the speed and grace of a gazelle. As you can tell that was a long, long time ago.

My husband and I had been married only seven years when he died.  I had a hard time accepting his death.  I felt God had turned his back on me.  I’d go to bed crying and wake up crying.  One day God broke through my grief and I began to see things in a new light.  That’s when I joined with the quiet ones of our land.  We never leave the Court of the People, and we spend our days and nights preaching, praying, and singing.

Simeon presenting Jesus to Anna. Stained glass detail from the church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge.

Today brought me a glorious blessing!  From a distance I heard old Simeon’s voice.  I could tell something awesome was taking place.  I wasted no time pushing my old body to the scene of action.  I arrived just in time to hear Simeon say, “Lady, many people will be unhappy when your son reveals their evil thoughts.  Expect them to treat him badly.  And, because you love him so, you’ll feel as if you have been stabbed by the same sword.”

The young mother flinched and looked as if she were about to burst into tears.  Simeon handed the baby over to my waiting arms.  “Anna, don’t you agree this baby is God’s gift to our universe?”

I looked deep into the child’s eyes and it was as if the heavens opened.  “Ah, yes, Simeon.  This baby is very, very special.”

I turned to the young mother and patted her arm.  “Little mother,” I said, “you hold in your arms the hope of the world.  Not even death will sever the tie that bind you and this little one together.  Go in peace and the God of Israel go with you.”


Anna’s experience with Simeon and her baby reveals that there is an inner light shining brightly within each one of us that equates to love.  Madeleine L’Engle beautifully tells us a similar message through her writing.  Sometimes that light is dimmed by life’s circumstances, but we all have the power within us to reignite the flame and shine on.  How do you keep your light glowing brightly this Advent season?

Prayer Thought:  Lord, there’s something wonderful about fleeing from the frenzy of daily living to it unfettered at your feet.  In your presence we are free to dream, to wonder, to adore and to hear God whisper.

Advent Season Can Spark Joy in Our Hearts

Sunday, Dec. 15, at First Baptist Church Chattanooga, we celebrated the third week of Advent by lighting the joy candle.

After last Sunday’s decorating efforts our massive auditorium now has a unique aura reminding us a special guest is on his way.

The apostle Paul repeatedly speaks in the book of Philippians of being joyful even as he lingered in a prison cell.

To me, joy is a very spiritual gift that isn’t dependent on gifts or circumstances.  You can be joyful whether you’re rich or poor, a leader or a follower, sick or well, old or young. 

Today our children’s, youth, and adult choirs thrilled our hearts with special music.  As the worship hour neared its end many adults left their pews and ascended to the choir loft to join in singing a portion of Handel’s Messiah.

In my estimation no Christmas music ever written can equal this majestic masterpiece.

King of kings and Lord of Lords.  He shall reign forever and ever!

Early Christmas Disappointment Brings Joy 50 Years Later

It was 1939 and my third grade Christmas easily is remembered as the saddest in my childhood memory bank.  We’d left our rural roots and moved to the tiny town of Waycross, Georgia where Mama was temporarily hired by the government-run WPA.  When she was no longer employed our family finances would hit an all-time low.

For months I lingered in front of the redemption shopping center salivating over a Betsy Wetsy doll.  I made sure God, Santa, and Mama all knew what I wanted for Christmas, only to have my heart crushed on Christmas morn.

My brother, employed as a clerk in the Southern Railroad office, was caught up in the national mania attached to Atlanta’s premiere of Gone with the Wind.  He had sent me a beautiful replica of Scarlett O’Hara.  When I opened my Christmas package my heart took a nose dive!  Where was my Betsy Wetsy doll?  I remember flinging the beautiful Scarlett replica onto the bed and bursting into tears.

Some 50-plus years later in a San Francisco toy shop my eyes lit on a miniature replica of my third grade Christmas memory.  Today it remains in a prominent place in my apartment year round to remind of the deep love and joy my elder brother John had for me.  The oldest and youngest had a special bond nothing could destroy.  What as a third grader brought me great disappointment today floods my heart of hearts.  The name John is another way of spelling Christmas joy.


Prayer thought: Lord, teach us that “God talking” is no substitute for “God walking.”  It’s easy to repeat the phrase peace be with you, but far more difficult to take a stand when the path of peace is being trampled.  Lord, grant us wisdom to know the difference.

Finding Peace on this Second Sunday of Advent

In our worship service Sunday, December 8, we observed the second Sunday of Advent. Right before our very eyes the church sanctuary underwent a transformation.  We tingled with anticipation as men, women and children combined to make ready our house for a most special event.

Huge Christmas wreaths were suspended at key points around the sanctuary.  The children joined in by recreating all the characters that appeared in Bethlehem’s nativity venue.

Today marked a first for our church. Two friends of mine, who for a very long time have been loving partners in a same-sex marriage, were selected to light the peace candle. I tremble with joy at this unspoken, but deliberate, inclusive act!

The candle they lit is called the peace candle.

Peace?  When our nation is so politically polarized.

Peace?  When the lives of innocents, almost daily, are taken by the shot of some type of gun.

Peace?  When our nation becomes the laughingstock of the civilized world?

Peace?  When political compromises are unheard of?

Gabriel proclaimed, “Don’t be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy”

Isaiah said, “He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The kind of peace that Christ brings is a gift to individuals, families and churches when they are unapologetic in accepting each other in love while being void of censuring.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Saint Francis’s words. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” resonates with me.  God, grant me courage to speak out when human rights are being trampled.

God, grant me the courage to applaud positive, courageous steps taken by my church.  Keep us all peace hungry.

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