Category Archives: Encouragements for Living

Don’t Throw Treasures in the Trash!

I read recently about a masked thief in Denmark who broke into Copenhagen’s Cafe 33 and made off with a vodka bottle from a locked area, drank the vodka, and threw the empty bottle away. Because it was part of a 1,200 bottle collection and on loan from a Latvian car manufacturer, the store owner notified the police, who went in search of the empty bottle. Thankfully, the police found it and were able to retrieve the borrowed bottle from a  construction site in the area. Although the bottle was dented, the owner of Cafe 33, Brian Ingberg, was overjoyed to get it back, not only because it wasn’t his, but also because it was worth $1.3 million! The bottle had been fashioned from six pounds of silver and six pounds of gold crowned with a diamond-encrusted cap in the shape of a vintage car. Can you believe it? How did the thief fail to appreciate it’s beauty and value??

It made me stop and think about what I might be taking for granted or not appreciating properly, and the first thing that came to my mind is my husband. Hopefully, I’ll never drink him dry and throw him away, but he is a real prize, and I don’t always recognize his true value, which is far greater than silver and gold!

How about you? Got any family or friends who deserve more appreciation than you give them? What about our kids? Got any rebels who are driving you crazy?  When I am frustrated, I meditate on Luke 21:19, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” And, how about this one? “I. . .beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Let’s treasure our treasures. May we never run them dry, throw them under a bus, or discard them as useless. God created each of us as a unique treasure. He “owns” us in a sense, and we are just on loan to one another. Let’s make sure that when the time comes to return our loved ones to God, we’ve protected them and cared for them.

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:16-18).

How Are You Feeling About Growing Older?

Here is something that’s been going around on Facebook. I have no clue who originally wrote it, but it seems to resonate so well with the Baby Boomer set that I thought it might encourage my blogging buddies too! You don’t have to be really “old” like me to participate. Apparently anybody over 25 might feel “old,” so anybody’s welcome to add a photo or thought, and it doesn’t have to be limited to women. I’m thinking even men might feel a little insecure as you age, since growing older isn’t just a problem women have to grapple with!   If you can’t leave a photo in the comment box, send it to me via FB (Kathryn W. Armstrong) or email (kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com) and I’ll make a post for us all! I also very much welcome any thoughts or encouragements you might have heard or learned on your own journey through life so far.

Here’s how it goes:

To all my female friends of “age”… Most of us are going through the next stage of our lives. We are at that age where we see the wrinkles… gray hair… extra pounds. Menopause has already shown up or just waiting around the corner. We see the pretty 25 year olds and sigh. But we were 25 too, just like they will one day be our age. What they bring to the table with their youth and zest for life, we bring with our wisdom, experience and good hearts. For all we’ve been through earning each gray hair… raising kids, bills and ills and whatever else life brought you/us over the 30s, 40’s, 50’s, & 60’s we are survivors… we are warriors… we are women. Like a classic car or fine wine. While our exterior may not be what it once was, it is traded for our spirit, our courage and our strength to enter this chapter of our lives with grace and pride for all we’ve been through and accomplished. Never feel bad about aging. It is a privilege denied to many. 🙏🏻
Ladies [and I’ll add: “Men”], I’ve just posted my photo above, and I challenge you to add your photo, age, and any bits of wisdom you’d like to contribute in the comment box below!                          My age is 67.

“Also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).

The Royal Wedding Reflects on The Song of Solomon

Did  you watch any of England’s royal wedding over the weekend? England’s Prince Harry of Wales married America’s Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018, but not at Westminster Cathedral, as I assumed. Because Harry is sixth in line to the throne, they were able to avoid inviting political figures (such as Barak Obama or Donald Trump) and instead had a smaller, more intimate ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. I hadn’t really followed this wonderful celebration while it was occurred, but I had several friends urge me to watch, particularly because Prince Harry’s aunt read the scripture lesson from the Song of Solomon, which was also the text for the message given by The Most Reverend Michael Curry.  If you have fourteen minutes to hear the message, it can be found here: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2018/may/read-the-powerful-sermon-on-love-bishop-michael-curry-preached-at-the-royal-wedding

Although British royalty don’t often speak of their faith, some of them have a clear and deep testimony to their faith in Christ, particularly the reigning Queen, Elizabeth II, who spoke of her beliefs in the forward to a book published by the Bible Society in time to celebrate the queen’s 90th birthday in 2016, entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. One of the co-authors, Catherine Butcher, reported to Premier.org: “So to have a monarch who talks openly about Jesus in a very relaxed and natural way, we find that a huge encouragement and hope that Christians across the country will take a leaf out of The Queen’s book and learn to talk about Jesus in a natural way with friends, relatives and colleagues, so people can discover more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” Amen? Amen!!One of the best parts of the wedding (to me) was the singing of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” which reportedly moistened Prince Harry’s eyes, perhaps because it was his mother’s favorite song and also sung at her funeral. May the words of this Christian anthem be true for England’s beautiful royal family, as well as for each of us!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(— William Williams, 1745)

“Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

“Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

“When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.”

For thou art my rock and my fortress;
therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me
” (Psalm 31:3).

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

 

*First photo is one of the official wedding photos; the rest I found on CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network).

Don’t Forget (to) Breathe

If you want to be inspired by an incredible story of love overcoming all, be sure to watch the 2017 account of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an amazing love story recounted by their son as a tribute to their unfailing love for one another through devastating illness.  The acting is excellent.  (The heroine, Claire Foy, totally charmed us in her role as Elizabeth in The Crown, a fascinating look into the reign of England’s longest [and still] reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth.) I don’t want to tell you too much of the story lest I ruin it,  but it is a beautiful example of love and faithfulness  despite overwhelming challenges. As a result of their unbounded devotion to one another —and to making life worth living—their work has resulted in helping thousands of severely disabled persons! Ready to be inspired? Then it might be time to watch Breathe!For in him [the Lord] we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Cec Murphy on Atalanta’s Excess Baggage

Ever since I listened to Cecil (Cec) Murphy speak at a writers’ conference about five years ago, I’ve been a fan, not just of his writing (which is excellent) but of his character and long life of fruitful ministry. He began with six years on the mission field in Kenya—about sixty years ago—and has never stopped working, even though he’s authored or co-authored more than 135 books and could be resting on his laurels (which would provide a very comfy cushion for sitting)!

Cec still puts out a weekly blog called Writer to Writer as well as a monthly newsletter. He is busy leaving as large a legacy to the glory of God as possible, and he’s definitely a mentor and inspiration to me.  I was particularly touched by his last newsletter so asked if I could share it with you. As always, he was gracious! Here it is:

Excess Baggage

As I stood in line at Delta’s baggage check-in, the agent said to the woman in front of me, “You’re nineteen pounds overweight. You’ll have to pay for the excess weight or take out some of the goods.”

The woman dropped out of line to repack and stuff items into her large purse.

As I watched, I thought of the excess luggage most of us carry—hurts, slights, betrayals, and rejections. We haven’t let them go, even though they weigh us down. For example, whenever someone mentions a person we haven’t forgiven, we feel a heaviness inside. Even anger.

Those thoughts reminded me of Greek mythology and Atalanta, the fleet-footed goddess. Her father, King Schoeneus, wanted her to marry, but she refused. Finally, she agreed to marry only if her suitor could outrun her in a footrace. If the challengers lost, they would be put to death. Many young men tried, lost the race—and their lives.

Hippomenes became the next suitor and asked the goddess Aphrodite for help. She gave him three golden apples.

The race began and Atalanta was soon twenty yards ahead. Hippomenes rolled one apple in front of her, and she stooped to pick it up. A little later, he rolled out the second and she grabbed it. And the third.

By then, Atalanta was so weighted down, Hippomenes passed her and won the race.

The story teaches us that we self-sabotage by holding on to “golden apples” of anger, resentment, and unforgiveness. They hinder by weighing us down in successfully running life’s race.

We know they’re there, and we know they hold us back. Even so, it’s not easy to cast off those hurt feelings and rejection. With God’s help and opening ourselves to individuals we trust, we can dispose of the things that weigh us down.For any of you who’d enjoy reading more, here’s the link to his blog: https://t.e2ma.net/message/yb7lv/yjxfi

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Rise Up, My Love (284): “Beautiful in His Eyes”

Song of Solomon 8:10 “. . .then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” Well, so much for personal struggles (as a prototypical female). What’s the bottom line on this verse? Was Solomon’s bride being realistic? Did she have a pride problem? Or, was the bride simply expressing how beautiful her husband made her feel? I’d like to believe the last option, although for those of us mortals who live in this physical, fallen world, I suspect the Shulamite was truly a stunningly beautiful woman, Solomon had been attracted to her for that reason, and she knew it.

This is the most reasonable, literal interpretation of the verse, and the fact that Solomon gathered a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines who became idols in his life and led him astray from God strongly supports this view. (1 Kings 11:3: “And he [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”) This is one place in the book where—on the physical level—Solomon departs from our precious Savior, who looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance. “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7. Thank you, Jesus!).We’ll discuss spiritual beauty next, but on the physical level, what lessons can we learn today? First, a word to all of us, but especially guys (who are often extremely visual in their orientation). Of course you’re attracted to a woman’s beauty, so be sure you marry someone who is physically appealing to you. Never try to be “super spiritual” and refuse to acknowledge your basic feelings about how physically attractive a potential girlfriend seems. However, your physical attraction should only be the first step in identifying the right girl.

If you want to be content in this life…if you want a happy marriage…then learn to be like Christ. Look for an attractive mate who is intently developing spiritual beauty…and make sure you’re intently developing godly character yourself! It is our flesh that draws us to physical beauty, and if we don’t train our hearts to focus on and love that which is spiritual, we will forever suffer lustful attractions to members of the opposite sex based strictly on physical appearance. Why do you think the draw to pornography is so incredibly powerful? Modern men may not have Solomon’s wealth and power to acquire a physical harem, but for the price of his soul a man can develop a Satanic harem through visual images that will lead to his destruction just as surely as Solomon’s lust turned him away from his God.

The Proverbs remind us: “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:31). If you want to be still singing your spouse’s praises when you’re seventy, look for someone who loves the Lord with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength. The spirits of such people grow more attractive year by year.Second, another word to all of us, but especially to us as women (who due to child birth and hormone shifts have an extremely difficult time retaining our youthful figures). Let’s try to be as beautiful as possible for our spouses! A fact of human nature that we would be wise to understand and accommodate is that human beings are attracted to physical beauty. (No offense on the lizard; I was thinking of myself!)

Let’s assess ourselves realistically. Are we firm and straight like a wall, or are we sagging and bulging under the weight of indulgence? Are we being self- disciplined enough to eat and exercise properly? Do we have good posture? Standing up straight will go a long way toward looking as attractive as possible. Our breasts may not exactly seem like “towers” to us, but if we’re not overweight, we’re standing up straight, and we’re wearing undergarments that are appropriately supportive, most women will have a pleasant frame that can be totally satisfying to her husband. (If he keeps his eyes off strange women; a man with wandering eyes will never be satisfied, no matter how beautiful his wife is.)Believe it or not, being as shapely as possible is something that God desires for us as part of living “heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). It is part of good stewardship. He gave us our body as a gift to maintain, and he wants us to be beautiful for him. We are his abiding place, and just as he is preparing a place for us, so we can express love to him by keeping our earthly tabernacle as beautiful as possible for him. Although our motive in everything should be first and foremost God’s pleasure, a beautiful body will also be a pleasure and attraction to our husbands.

We probably do not think we could compete in a Miss Universe contest, but let’s work on being able to go at least this far towards feeling like the bride. Let’s work on being able to say: “God gave me just the body he wanted me to have, and I am beautiful to Him. I want to be a good steward of the body that God has given me, and my husband appreciates me for that.”(Hopefully!! 🙂  )

Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (2 Timothy 2:19-21).

Are You Optimizing Your Brain Fitness?

A week ago, I wrote about Alan’s attending the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists’ annual meeting and the tidal wave of Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, and I suggested that we start learning to surf so we don’t get crushed. This week, I want to offer a few ideas from what I’ve been learning in my own quest for health.

Are you familiar with The Great Courses? I am a fan. Through audio or video, this organization can bring a world of research and learning via professors from some of America’s best universities right into your car or home. I can drive and learn, sit quietly on a couch with notebook in hand, or work out on my elliptical while absorbing information.

Granted, these college-level courses won’t keep you awake like Hollywood’s glitzy entertainment, but they are excellent resources for brightening your brain! I ordered a couple of series last fall and have been completely satisfied with the quality of their programs and what I’ve been learning. My personal favorite way to optimize both brain and body fitness is to work out while keeping a notebook right beside me for scribbling down ideas. Stopping to write notes does effect my workout stats, but I figure the mental stimulation is worth the hit to any personal pride that may be lurking behind my attempts at physical conditioning.

Simple tips from the series on Optimizing Brain Fitness that impressed me:

*In an experiment with rats, those who were fed 35% less food lived 35% longer!
*Best diet tip? Stop eating deep-fried foods.
*Walking 1 mile daily decreases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 50%.
*Get enough sleep. The current generation is getting 45 minutes less sleep per day than the older generation, but it’s had a negative effect on learning.
*Power naps are good; they reset your energy and help process learning.
*Most important aspect of memory is learning to focus and pay attention!
*”If you can see, look. If you can look, observe…attend…study!”
*Your brain needs exercise, so take up some new hobby.
*Scientists have discerned that you improve long term retention more by repeated testing than by more study.

This last bit of research made me understand why we have tests in school and in life! The Lord is training us to learn and grow, not just have brains full of data that doesn’t stick!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Just in case you’re interested in more information about The Great Courses, I’ll include their contact information: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses. 1-800-832-2412. For classes on Christianity, though, I’d rather refer you my son Jonathan’s Aqueduct Project [https://aqueductproject.org/ ], or the new Center for Global Theological Education, which he’s developing at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.