Earthen Vessels Archive 2013

Home | Autumn Creation | Harvest -Time of Thanksgiving | Autumn of Our Lives | Archives


All articles written by Dana Nolan unless otherwise stated. 

  • Earthen Vessels via Pulpit Commentary 
  • It's OK To Be Second 
  • We Were Meant to Serve...Despite Depression by Hannah Beckley
  • Frances Pollock 
  • How To Have a Good Year - One Day At A Time
  • How To Have a Good Year - One Day At A Time (Part 2)
  • Be Thankful  -author unknown

 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves. 2 Cor. 4:7

 via the Pulpit Commentary
I. AS CONTAINING AN INESTIMABLE TREASURE. The gospel is a system of incalculable worth. The most valuable things in nature are employed to represent it—water, light, life, etc. There are four criteria that determine the worth of a thing—rarity, utility, duration, the appreciation of the highest authorities. All these applied to the gospel demonstrate its surpassing value.

II. AS THE SERVICE OF FRAGILE MEN. "In earthen vessels." To whom have the inestimable truths of the gospel been entrusted for exposition, enforcement, and distribution? Not to angels, but to frail and dying men.

1. They have frail bodies. They are subject to infirmity, exhaustion, decay, etc.

2. They have frail minds. The most vigorous in intellect is weak, the most lofty in genius is feeble, the most enlightened is ignorant.

III. AS DEVELOPING A DIVINE PURPOSE. "That the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." The grand reason why frail men are employed to preach the gospel is that the glorious renovating and soul-saving effects may evidently appear as the work of God, and not of man. When sermons prove effective in converting souls, it is not because of the originality of their thought, the force of their logic, the splendour of their rhetoric, or the majesty of their eloquence, but because of the Divine power that accompanies them. "Not by might, nor by power," etc.


It's O.K. To Be Second

by Dana Nolan

From the time I was a small girl, I have been quite aware that there is competition all around us.  Somewhere inside of us, there is a basic need to set goals, achieve results, and gain approval from those we respect. When I was about six, my parents entered me into a local beauty pageant. My mother had my hair professionally piled on top of my head, and my grandmother purchased a beautiful dress for me to wear that looked like a shorter version of Cinderella's ball gown.  When I saw myself in the mirror, I was convinced that there was no way I could lose. Unfortunately, the judges thought differently! Instead of a trophy and sash, I went home with a Little Golden Book!

Though I have had many wonderful moments when I achieved a coveted goal in my life, I have had many more disappointments. As I have competed in athletic and academic competitions, I've suffered many defeats, when someone accomplished something first or did a better job than I was able to do. These failures are often difficult to take, because there is something in us that wants to be first or best in those things that are most important to us, and we live in a society that only wants to honor its first place winners! Sometimes, when we are not able to capture the "blue ribbon" or the "gold medal," or even just the validation of someone near to us, we can sink into despair.

This need for approval and possibly even preeminence was first demonstrated in the Garden of Eden, when Cain and Abel worked to have sacrifices to bring to the Lord. Abel apparently had listened to God's instructions about what pleased Him, but Cain had disregarded God's wishes. Genesis 4:4 said that the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering, but He did not have respect for Cain and his offering. When Cain did not follow the rules God had given, he ruined his chances of getting God's approval. Cain didn't even "come in second!"  He was disqualified!

 In I Corinthians 9:24-27, the Apostle Paul compares living the Christian life to running in a race. In a race, the athlete that has trained the hardest and exercised the most discipline generally wins the prize! Paul said that he was careful to keep his body under control, so that he would not find himself disqualified from the prize in life's race. And fortunately, God allows each one who will believe in His Son in obedient faith to capture the win and the prize--eternity in heaven.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to set goals and achieve great things, especially in the kingdom of God! But there is also a time for stepping back and being willing to be second!

There are three very powerful lessons in the Old Testament about three people who did great things from "second place!" The first one was Joseph; his story is found in Genesis 37-50. These chapters tell of his extraordinary rise to power in Egypt, from the position of slave in Potiphar's house, to falsely-accused prisoner in Egypt's dungeons, to the totally unexpected appointment as second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt!

Then, there was the story of Daniel, a Jewish captive in the land of Babylon. He remained true to God, even though it would have been easier to give in and adopt the heathen practices of the Babylonians. He was eventually, like Joseph, given ability by God to interpret the dreams of the monarch, and like Joseph, he was held in high regard by the king and given a great position of authority in Babylon. He was made ruler over a whole province of Babylon, and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. (Daniel 2:47-48)

The third person who had an unusual rise to power in a foreign land was the Jew Mordecai, whose story is recorded in the book of Esther. Mordecai was one who sat in the King's gate in Persia, indicating that he was an official there; however, there is no indication that the king really even knew who he was at that point.  Mordecai exercised a great deal of loyalty to a king who was not Jewish and not even particularly righteous. He saved this king from an assassination attempt, provided him with a beautiful queen, (who happened to be his cousin and ward that he had brought up as his own daughter,) and eventually exposed Haman for the evil, conniving man he was--a man who would not stop until the Jews were annihilated. Exercising a great deal of patience and restraint, Mordecai acted with wisdom and integrity. He was rewarded for his efforts by being made second in rank to King Ahasuerus! (Esther 10:3)

These three great men seemed perfectly happy in their "second place" seats of power. They were all three Jewish men who did not let the false religions of kings of the earth affect their devotion to the one true God of heaven and earth!  All three were known for their integrity! Joseph refused to commit adultery to "better" himself in the eyes of his employer's wife. Daniel refused to change his praying habits, just because the king legislated that it was no longer permissible to pray to any god for the next thirty days. And Mordecai refused to sit back and be idle when Haman engineered the destruction of the Jewish nation, and it seemed all hope for Mordecai's people was lost.

What about you? Do you always have to be the best, the brightest, the most successful? Are you teaching your children that anything other than first is somehow not good enough? While it is true that we should always give our best effort in everything we do, it is often not that important whether we finish first or twenty-first. Many times, we expend so much energy trying to be first in pursuits that are not eternally important, that we take our focus away from things that do matter.

One example that comes to mind is parents who encourage their children to excel in athletics and academics, but these same parents do not urge their children to seek FIRST the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness! (Matthew 6:33) I have had children in classes at church who have very little Bible knowledge, but their parents have them enrolled in every kind of extra-curricular activity possible. Further, these children often dissolve into tears when they cannot come in first in every competition. If we have some sort of competitive activity in class, they must win at all costs. They do not know how to put others first, because they have not learned to deny themselves. Romans 12:10 says to "love one another with brotherly affection" and to "outdo one another in showing honor." Do we model this behavior for our children?

When we put others' needs above our own, yes, sometimes that means that we don't get everything we want. We don't get recognition or honor many times, at least from man. However, we can be sure that our Father in heaven is pleased when we "esteem others as better than ourselves." (Phil. 2:3)

There is no harm in striving for excellence in our lives, as long as we keep perspective! Like Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai, we can often accomplish great things for the Lord even when we are not in a position of supreme leadership. Wives defer to the headship of their husbands (Eph. 5:22-23); children submit to the leadership of their parents (Col. 3:20).  Members of the Lord's church submit to their elders. (Hebrews13:17) Yet, all these people can and do accomplish great things for the Lord. Yes, sometimes it is o.k. to be second!



 We Were Meant to Serve... Despite Depression

by Hannah Beckley

On this, my eighteenth birthday, I feel like I need to address something that’s really important to me. Something that I think everyone needs to hear.

Apparently I’m seen as a leader.  As confident.  As independent.  I’ve been told I’m pretty.  I’ve been told I’m talented.  I’ve been told I’m funny.  I’ve been told I’m smart.  I’ve been told I’m wonderful. But I’m here to tell you there are days where I feel worthless.  I feel lonely.  I feel ugly.  I feel stupid.  I feel depressed. 

Depression is hard.  We don’t talk about it enough.  It’s a real thing, and it’s a real problem.  Lots of people go through difficult times in their life.  They need our help.  But some people struggle with depression for years.  They may consider suicide as a way out, especially when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.  When someone feels sad enough to end their existence, they’ve got it bad.

Some people publicize their suffering.  That’s easier to detect.  Jump on those obvious opportunities to help.  If someone is constantly broadcasting how difficult their life is, put aside your judgmental tendencies, your “Oh my, quit complaining”s, and serve them.  Reach out.  They may not realize it, but they need you.  And guess what?  You may not realize it, but you need them too.  We were made to serve.

Sometimes, though, depressed individuals hide it.  Forcing a smile is a developed skill.  If you want to help these guys, you have to go deeper than the surface.  Masked depressives tend to become reclusive during difficult times.  Instead of announcing their troubles to the world, they stay in bed all day.   They avoid public places.  When they do come out into the open, they keep their heads down, shoulders slumped, and eyes empty.  While broadcasting depressives tend to be feeling extreme anger or sorrow, masked depressives feel nothing.  They are empty of all emotion.  Their life feels pointless.  These are the depressed that slowly sink deeper and deeper into the pit of despair without anyone’s notice.  This is dangerous.

If you know someone that’s been slowly withdrawing, PULL THEM BACK.  Be their friend.  Ask them how they are.  Don’t accept “fine” as an answer.  Ask them about school, sports, music, movies, anything. Find what subject gets the most positive reaction (or any reaction), and focus on that.  Check up on them. Send them texts saying how thankful you are for them.  Invite them to lunch.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own personal bubbles; we begin to lose sight of the people that really need our attention.

Sometimes people you never expect to have trouble with depression are struggling.  Maybe it’s the popular girl that secretly feels lonely, in need of a real relationship.  Maybe it’s the athletic guy that keeps his bad relationship with his parents classified.  They need support.  They need you.

Maybe it’s the girl that everyone thinks is on top of things.  She’s got good grades, good parents, and decently good looks.  But she starts to become distant.  It may seem like she’s a snob, but she really feels lonely.  When people think you’re perfect, they hold you to an unattainable standard.  She feels like a display.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Her grades start to slip.  She stops going out.  She starts to feel that all her relationships are cold and unnatural.  She stops smiling at strangers.  She stops encouraging little girls at church.  She stops participating in class.  She stops putting on makeup.  She stops getting out of bed. She stops feeling.  She stops living.

That was me.  Everything in that paragraph was me.  People are surprised when I tell them I suffer with depression, but I do.  Some days are fine.  When the sun is out, and I’ve got something to look forward to, everything’s okay.  But when it’s overcast, when it’s stressful, when I mess up, when I feel lonely, I’m there again.

It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try.  Imagine floating in a void.  There’s glass around you.  Everyone moves on with their everyday lives, but you’re stuck.  Breaking out never occurs to you.  This is just the way it is.  You stay there until someone notices and breaks down the walls.  Depending on who’s around, you can be stuck for a very long time.

Thankfully, I had God.  He saved me.  Confession time.  Don’t freak out, but I considered suicide. Twice.  I’m totally over it now, but at the time those feelings were real.  Very real.  Thankfully both times I got so scared I immediately snapped out of it.  How could I do that to my family?  Most of all, how could I throw away the life God had given me?  Sure, it felt totally worthless, but He must have a plan for me.

If I considered death – me, Hannah Beckley, the girl that lives the most blessed life on the planet – then who else does?  Many people live without God in their lives.  Bring Him to them.

In my case, God worked through someone.  My mom.  She knew what I was going through.  She knew what to say, what to do.  There is no way I can put to words how thankful I am for her.  She doesn’t know it, but she saved my life.

God works through people.  We can all help in different ways.  We can all sympathize.  But some of us can help empathize.  Some of us know how it feels.  To those of you that have had similar experiences as me, don’t hide it.  It’s embarrassing, but look at yourself now.  You pulled through it.  With help you pulled through it.  Others need that help.  Don’t be selfish.  Take a leap of faith, knowing that your temporarily bruised pride may help someone get through a life threatening situation.

I guess my point through all of this is HELP.  Help everyone.  Help the weak, help the strong. Everyone has difficulties.  Most people don’t have a mom like mine.  Make sure they have someone.  Be their someone.  Be the person God can work through.  Help.

Now depression is just an example.  I personally have experienced depression, so I can help others going through the same thing.  But replace depression with something else.  No matter what it is, someone else is going through it, and they need to know they’re not the only one.  Help.

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:1-4



 Frances Pollock

by Dana Nolan

 On March 20, 2013, my aunt, Mary Frances Hope Pollock, put off her earthly tent and was carried by the angels into eternity.  (Luke 16:22)  She had lived a long, godly, fulfilling life on this earth, and she died peacefully, surrounded by family and friends who sang as she crossed over Jordan. Her passing was as gentle as death can be; for that we are thankful! Our hearts will understandably ache until we can see her again!

Aunt Fran was the oldest of my aunts, and I always had the greatest respect for her and my dear Uncle Fred, her beloved husband. They were deeply loved and valued by the entire extended family, who often looked to them for the advice and guidance that godly older siblings can provide. Moreover, they were well-respected in every role which they had in this earthly life, and there were many. I don't know that my aunt ever had any other title than ones like mother, wife of the chairman of the board, wife of a deacon, or wife of an elder. Yet, her influence went all over this country and abroad through the years, as she reveled in her God-appointed role of wife, mother, hostess, and help-meet!

All of us leave a legacy when we pass from this life. Whether it is a rich, full legacy or a sad, empty one depends not on the state of our bank account or the number of people who sign our final guest book at the funeral home; our true legacy is forged as we labor on earth, doing the things God has commanded us to do with what talents He has given us.  My aunt left a rich legacy, because she chose to actively engage others, nurture them, teach them, and help them in any way she could! I was one who benefited from her guidance and teaching, so I wanted to reflect a little about some of the lessons I learned from her through the years and how these lessons have affected my walk as a Christian, and more specifically, a woman of God.

Aunt Fran would have been the first to tell all of us that we should imitate Christ instead of making fallible men and women our role models! She would have said, as the apostle Paul did, to only imitate her insofar as she imitated Christ,  and to never get to the point where we think more highly of ourselves than we should! (I Cor. 11:1; Romans 12:3) I think the thing that always impressed me about her was how it never seemed to take her more than two sentences to bring any conversation back around to some spiritual truth. Everything that she talked about became a lesson on godly living before the conversation was completed. She certainly knew how to use every opportunity to teach a young lady a memorable life's lesson. So as I remember her life, I know that Aunt Fran would want me to make it less about her and more about Christ!

 The first lesson that comes to mind is the beautiful way in which my aunt conducted herself in her marriage to my uncle.  Much of my knowledge of Aunt Fran's early life came from stories which my grandmother, her mother-in-law, told to me. I learned that Aunt Fran had struggled with her health from an early age, particularly with arthritis. My grandmother shared that she had conversed with her own son about the permanency and seriousness of the marriage bond, when he came to her expressing that he loved Fran and wanted to marry her. Grandmother told him that this young lady would likely have many struggles in life because of her health, and that he needed to be sure that he was willing to go the distance in what would surely be a difficult journey. My uncle assured his mother that his love for Fran was strong enough to endure whatever would come, though he had no way of knowing at the time what that would encompass! Her frail body suffered innumerable falls, broken bones, and countless surgeries through the years. Arthritis was joined by Crohn's Disease in wracking her body, and as she approached the end of her life, dementia took its toll as well. Through all of this, for 65 years, they shared an enthusiastic, unselfish love, and they were united--inseparable--until his death in 2010.

The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:33 that a man "must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."  I was amazed through my fifty years of observing my aunt and uncle together that they never stopped looking at each other as though they were still teenagers in love! She adored him, and she spent much of her life teaching women how to also adore their husbands. (Titus 2:4) Her daughters, who were with her at her passing, said that some of her last words were calling out to "her Fred," as though she was looking for him. It gives me great consolation that both she and Uncle Fred lived their lives in such a way that they have hope now of being in Paradise, in Abraham's bosom, with all the faithful who have gone on before. (Luke 16:19-31) It also gives me great happiness to think that maybe, when the angels safely delivered her to Paradise, that she found her Fred! I know we won't be married in heaven, but I do believe we will know one another and rejoice together that the victory is won!

I never was fortunate enough to live in the same locality as my aunt and uncle. That is why it is even more astounding that her influence affected me as much as it did. I believe a lot of that was a result of her "redeeming the time."  (Eph. 5:16) Aunt Fran used her limited visits with us, not just to make chit-chat, but to make an impact on young minds. Not only did she notice us, but she also engaged us in conversation from a young age. However, she also taught us to be respectful of the times that adults wanted to have conversations.  As a young child, I remember gentle lessons on manners, and on watching our "little eyes, ears, lips, hands, and feet!" She always had a love for children and teaching children's classes in the churches, because she knew that if we "remembered our Creator in the days of (our) youth" that there was a good chance we would grow up to continue faithfully serving our Lord! (Ecclesiastes 12:1) She also lived frugally, so that her resources might help worthy young men and women attain higher education. She and Uncle Fred were given the Friend to Youth Award by Florida College in 1998 for their tireless work for and with young people.

As a pre-teen, I remember her subtle lessons about the importance of being "lady-like!" Many of the cousins in our family were girls who were athletic, active young women. Aunt Fran took every opportunity to remind us joyfully that God made us different from men, has special roles for women, and that we should care for our bodies and our spirits accordingly. She taught us how to have that "imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (I Peter 3:4) She also taught us the importance of making ourselves desirable to our husbands, especially by accentuating our femininity.  Modesty was important to her, and I valued her counsel on how to dress modestly, when the world seemed to be relaxing standards of dress everywhere. (I Timothy 2:9-10) I smile when I remember one of her favorite tips, which was to spray some soft perfume on a cotton ball and tuck it in our clothing somewhere, so that we could always smell nice! This "tomboy" needed these lessons, and they were remembered through the years with great appreciation and affection.

When I arrived in my late teens, as I finished high school and began college, my dear aunt was again there with wise counsel on marriage and family. Through the years, the example of her own marriage was such an encouragement to me in striving to have the kind of home that God would want. She gave me the book "Love Life for Every Married Couple" by Ed Wheat, which proved invaluable over and over; yet she also counseled that God's Word was the final authority in all matters and the best "marriage manual" out there!  I knew that, through the rough years, when I endured the heartbreak of an unfaithful mate and eventual divorce, I could call my aunt for loving advice. When I found a good man and remarried, her encouragement continued, and her example of an enthusiastic, ever-fresh love for my uncle became part of the inspiration for my own unique wedding vows!

Eventually, declining health overtook my dear aunt, and it became impossible for her and my uncle to live independently. A daughter and son-in-law lovingly took them into their home and cared for them for the rest of their lives. Even though dementia stole away much of the short-term memory from Aunt Fran, it could not steal the foundation of her faith, which was tucked safely away in the deepest recesses of her being. On the day that my Uncle Fred died at home, sweet Aunt Fran was the first to notice and point out to the gathered family that he had passed. She matter-of-factly looked up and said, "Well, he's gone, isn't he? You know, if we all behave ourselves, we can go be with him someday!"  In a moment of child-like faith, Aunt Fran had expressed a simple but eternal truth. It all comes down to behaving ourselves in this life. (I Timothy 3:15)

Time would fail me if I tried to list every wonderful quality my aunt had and how I learned some life's lesson by watching her and listening to her wise counsel. Her hospitality through the years was grand; one always left her home feeling uplifted and refreshed by the laughter, the love, the lavish meals, and an arm-full of surprises to be unwrapped once you had traveled a set number of miles down the road! Though she gave me some lovely and memorable gifts during my lifetime, the greatest gifts were the blocks of time she dedicated to me, personally, to try and help me become a better servant of our King!

Proverbs 31 ends with the words, "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates." Frances Pollock will long be remembered for her fear of the Lord which compelled her to work all of her life with imperfect, arthritic hands, courageously reaching out in faith to touch the lives of so many! It can be said of her, as it was said of the woman in Mark 14:8, "she has done what she could," and Aunt Fran always did what she could with grace and a smile! I will miss her! Her family will miss her! Her brethren will miss her! But it's only for a little while, and we trust we will meet again!


How to Have a Good Year - One Day at a Time!
Part 1
by Dana Nolan

One day recently, I awoke to a dismal, gray day outside. The holidays and fun, leisurely days were over. A mountain of laundry stared me in the face. My daughter was sick. I thought, "Oh, this is going to be a bad day!"

Then, I immediately checked my attitude and thought, "Why does it have to be a bad day? This day can be anything I make it!" I began to think of ways that I could turn a gloomy day into a good one! The best part of the day was cuddling with my daughter and reading with her! In the end, it did not turn out to be a bad day after all!

Why does it matter? Should I have just let the day play out and then evaluated it at the end? I am no different from the Apostle Paul. I war every day as my mind and body want to go against what God has revealed through the Spirit that I SHOULD be doing and feeling! (Romans 7)

Attitudes do matter. God calls us to be thankful people. In I Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says, "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we can find something for which to be thankful! When we look at a mountain of dirty laundry, we can see it as a curse, or we can thank God that we have more than one change of clothes! I remember a poem that my mother had hanging by the sink with a similar thought about dirty dishes. Over the years, I memorized it, as I stood (sometimes grudgingly) scrubbing pots and pans:

"Thank God for Dirty Dishes"

Thank God for dirty dishes!
They have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry,
We're eating very well.
With home and health and happiness,
We shouldn't want to fuss!
For, by this stack of evidence,
God's been very good to us.

If we are thankful people, it changes our attitudes about everything. Thankful hearts, in turn, will transform our days! Instead of grumbling about the provisions God has given us, we will be thankful for the "manna" of our lives! (Exodus 16) Study these scriptures and see what God reveals about being thankful. (I Chron. 16:34, Psalms 100:4, Eph. 5:20, Phil. 4:6, Col. 2:7, Col. 3:15, Heb. 12:28-29)

Thankfulness is not just something God would prefer us to have! He commands it! It then follows that if we struggle with being thankful, we may struggle with other commands of the Lord. Ephesians 5:20 shows that our worship comes from a thankful heart! Worship is also commanded, but I believe that if we have gratitude to God for His immense love for us, it will never be a "chore" for us! The Apostle John reminded us, "This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome." (I John 5:3, NIV)

Like many commands of God, being thankful in all things is not easy sometimes! Being thankful is not innate; it takes training and practice from childhood. It is hard to be thankful during the trials of life. When a loved one is sick, when the car breaks down, or when we lose a job, for example, our faith in God and His commands can be tested. We have to lean on His promises, like the one in Romans 8:28-- "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Not all things that happen to us in life are good! But our all-powerful God can use all circumstances to work for our good and His glory!

When Joseph found himself in Egypt in terrible circumstances--imprisoned for something he did not do and then forgotten (by men), he did not grumble! He did not blame God and curse Him for letting things grow difficult. Joseph told his brothers many years after these tough times, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." (Genesis 50:20) Joseph could see that his entire family was saved from famine and starvation by God's Providential care, and he was thankful!

What about us? Do we fail to see God's care in our lives? Perhaps when we lose one job, we are forced to move on and find another which ends up being a better long-term situation with better benefits for our families. It is never pleasant to go through the uncertain times. However, like Joseph, many years later, we may be able to look back and marvel at how God has used these situations for our good!

Does God expect us to be thankful in severe trials, like when our child is sick? Again, I Thess. 5:18 says, " In everything give thanks...." I don't believe we have to necessarily be thankful for the sickness, but we can be thankful that there is medicine for so many illnesses. Most of us have access to doctors and hospitals. We can be thankful for these provisions in our difficult times. We can thank God for the patience that trials bring us. (James 1:2-4) We can be thankful for each day God has loaned us this child, to shape, nourish, and cherish. We can especially be thankful that these trials turn our hearts toward spiritual thoughts! Whatever the outcome of trials, be they temporary or permanent, we need to approach God reverently with praise and thankfulness, as David did when he lost his son. "So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped." (II Sam. 12:20) Being thankful during trials is likely one of the hardest things we are called to do as Christians. Yet, it is a trait that defines who we are, sets us apart from the world, and identifies us as trusting children of God!

As the saying goes about life--"It is what it is!" Some days are sad. God understands and cares. Some days require more time conversing in prayer with our Father. He is always available, and has "all the time in the world" to listen. He understands our weaknesses! (Heb. 4:15) He has promised that trials are temporary, that we are refined like gold in the fire, and those that endure will have a wonderful reward! (I Peter 1:6-7) It is clear from the totality of scriptures that God is pleased with a thankful child!

Next time, we will look at some practical ways that we can make our days better, operating off of thankful hearts to God!


How to Have a Good Day - One Day At A Time!

Part 2

by Dana Nolan

In the first part of this article, we discussed that it is possible to make our days more pleasant by adjusting our attitudes to see things in a more positive light! By being thankful for what we do have, rather than being covetous of what we do not have, we please our Father in Heaven and we have a happier life!

When I became a parent, I was given greater insight into how God must feel when His children are unthankful, murmuring people! How disappointing is it to give gifts to your children--gifts that we spent a lot of time and effort choosing and paying for--only to have the children show no happiness or appreciation for the gift! Do we do that with God's blessings? How much do we take for granted every day in the areas of our health, daily provisions, and God's providential care in our lives? God gives most of us so much more than what we actually need, and many times, we just are not as thankful as we should be.

Many times, I think we know deep in our hearts that we need to be content and thankful, but we allow the devil into our hearts to steal our joy and thankfulness. How do we fortify ourselves so that we can stand up against the wiles of the evil one? Here are some practical ways to make each and every day as fulfilling and spiritually productive as possible!

1. We can start the day by praying!

When we want to know how to do something well, we should look to examples in the Bible for the ways that please the Lord. David was described as a "man after God's own heart." (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) in Psalm 5, we read how David approached God in the first part of his day:

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." Psalm 5:3, NIV

Note that David did not wait til the end of his day and pray to God as some kind of afterthought. David planned what to say to the Lord and had his requests ready to present to God. David also had an expectation that God was going to answer his requests. We know from reading about David that God did not answer every prayer of his in the affirmative or right when David asked. However, God did preserve and protect David and eventually brought him to the throne as the beloved King of Israel! God loved David so much and brought Christ through his seed.

David was always careful in what he offered to God And how he offered it. (I Chron. 21:24) By offering prayer and worship to God first thing in the morning, David showed us what our priorities ought to be. If talking to God is only through rote prayer at meals and bedtime, we need to fix that immediately and realize that nothing can be truly right until we recognize the true place of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our lives! Daniel was another one who prayed to God regularly and without fail! (Daniel 6:10) Let us follow the examples of men who loved God and used prayer as an avenue to draw closer to Him.

2. We can follow up praying with some spiritual exercise!

I Timothy 4:7-8 tells us, "For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." Around the first of every year, most people get serious about a physical diet and exercise plan, at least for a few weeks, until the resolve wears off. How much, though, do we think about spiritual exercise? When we exercise our body, we stretch and strain our muscles so that they will grow stronger. If we never use our muscles, they atrophy.

In the same way, we need to stretch ourselves spiritually. When we follow God's commands, we exercise our faith. As we see God's promises come true, our faith grows more and more. We then add to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. (II Peter 1:5-8) We are to give diligence to adding these graces to our lives. Do we ever "break a sweat," spiritually speaking? Do we give of ourselves, our time, and our money until it hurts? Athletes are known for exercising their muscles to the point of muscle failure. How about us? Do we give of ourselves fully, sacrificing at times for the sake of the gospel? If not, we may not effectively be exercising our spiritual selves. II Corinthians 8:1-5 gives us a glimpse of some Christians who practiced some spiritual exertion. They launched out in faith and helped their brethren financially, when they themselves did not have much to spare. They trusted that God would supply their needs, and He always has for His people.

"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Psalm 37:25

3. We can get our spiritual nutrition!

We all know that we truly are what we eat! If we don't have good nutrition, our body will be weakened, and we can even die! We spend all kinds of money on special food, diet supplements, and drinks to fortify our bodies. But sometimes, we make little provision for our spiritual health. For some of us, the only spiritual feeding of the week comes from what we digest out of the Sunday morning sermon at church. What would happen if we only ate part of one meal every seven days? Obviously, we would not live very long.

Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us that we need to work to progress in the faith, from one who is taught as a babe in Christ to one who has grown to the point that he or she can teach others:

"For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."  (Heb. 5:13-14)

From these verses, we can see that diet and exercise play as much of a part in our spiritual lives as they do in our physical ones. If we want to have good days--really full, meaningful days on this earth--we will show up for the spiritual feedings our shepherds provide (Hebrews 10:24-25), and we will read and study the Word on our own to be the strongest that we can be! (Psalm 119:105)

"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts." (Jeremiah 15:16)

4. We can do something for someone else!

When we think about what makes a day pleasant, we often are thinking of what others can do for us or what gives us pleasure. Not until we are a little more mature do we realize that some of our most joyful times will be spent doing things for others! The writer of Ecclesiastes had tried everything "under the sun" to experience every type of earthly pleasure, and in the end, he declared, "Vanity of vanities...all is vanity!" (Ecclesiastes 12:8) Try as we might, when we focus only on ourselves, we are sure to come to the same conclusion as the writer of Ecclesiastes! True joy in this life does not come in searching out pleasurable experiences for ourselves!

Where, then, does fulfillment come from? Again, we must look to the wisest man who ever lived to give us advice on how to have the happiest life. The writer of Ecclesiastes finishes the book with these words:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,  for this is the duty of all mankind. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

So what are we to do for others according to God's commandments? Examine these scriptures below.

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4)

"Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor." (Proverbs 22:9)

"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." (Romans 12:13)

"If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?". (I John 3:17, NIV)

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:16)

The scriptures above teach us that there are plenty of people, both inside and outside of the church, who have various needs. Some covet the basic necessities of life, while the needs of others may be psychological or spiritual. There is no lack of charitable work to do. Serving our fellow men has many benefits beyond meeting their needs. Sometimes, as we serve others, we become more aware of how we have been blessed with material goods, health, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, etc. Additionally, it is a wonderfully fulfilling thing, for instance, to spend an afternoon with a lonely, elderly person. We come away feeling like we are the blessed one for having spent time with someone who can share many amazing stories and tidbits of wisdom they have gathered through the years.

Those who consistently volunteer their time in service to others overwhelmingly report that it is they who gained the most from the experience. It's easier to become discouraged when we only have our own lives to focus upon. When we get outside of ourselves and look to the needs of others, our days become brighter, and more importantly, God is pleased because we are doing what He has commanded us to do!

5. We can go "hands-free!"

This last little tip for having good days is only necessary because of the technological advances of the last twenty years or so! We have become a world of people who are constantly focused on what is in our hands. Most of the time these days, we are holding some electronic device. It is nearly impossible to see a younger person in public who is not holding a phone, a unit that plays music, or some kind of gaming device. In our homes, we talk on the phone, hold a t.v. remote, or play video games. People no longer talk to one another as they once did, because the attention of one or both parties is turned to some device. There is now a serious addiction problem among all age groups to these various electronic distractions.

We are doing a great disservice to ourselves and our loved ones when we can no longer provide conversation and companionship to them. It is true that we can use some of these things for good. We can make calls to the sick and shut-in on our phones. We can listen to music as we exercise. We can enjoy wholesome entertainment in moderation. However, when these things put a barrier between us and our families and friends, it's time to make changes.

Our children will benefit from uninterrupted face-to-face time with parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters. Many of us have had that revealing moment when everyone in the family was checking messages and Facebook at the dinner table instead of conversing. Moms and Dads everywhere have begun collecting phones at the door so that everyone will eat and talk instead of texting through dinner!

At the root of this problem is the same adversary who wants to keep us from praying, studying, and reaching out to the poor and needy of the world. I Peter 5:8 tells us to "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour...." The devil does not have to convince us to do bad things for him to win the battle; all he must do is to deter us from doing that which is good! Let us not be distracted from doing the work God has given us to do, but rather purpose, focus, and perform good works while God gives us the time to do them.

So in the coming days, try these things! Set an early morning appointment to pray to the Lord and study His word! Spend some time applying the principles found there, and exercise those "spiritual muscles." Make some time to do something for someone else, and also make time to give your loved ones some uninterrupted quality time with you, where they are the undisputed center of your attention. Then watch your days become richer and fuller and more truly satisfying!


"Be Thankful"

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.

                                                                                                           --author unknown

November 2017