Overcoming Discouragement

BEING A PROPHET IN Israel wasn’t an easy gig. That’s the understatement of the year. Most of the men God called were expected to boldly bear the bad news of God’s displeasure with the attitudes and sins of His people. One such prophet often found himself in the pit of despair. Oh, that I had died in my mother’s womb, that her body had been my grave! Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame. JEREMIAH 20:17–18

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Finding Courage

I RECALL THE FIRST TIME I watched the children’s classic movie The Wizard of Oz. I was spellbound by the music and the enchanting way in which the simple themes of family, valuing home, and celebrating individual differences were on display. But perhaps the most hilarious character of all was the lion—the bumbling, wimp of a cat, who cowered in fear at the smallest threat. What he needed was courage!

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Tenderness

BACK WHEN I WAS A KID I got a bellyache that wouldn’t go away. It hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up straight. Or sit down without increasing the pain. Finally, my folks hauled me over to a big house in West Houston where a doctor lived. He had turned the back section into his office and clinic. It was a hot, muggy afternoon. I was scared.

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A Psalm of Thanksgiving

BY NOW, YOU’VE NOTICED I’ve got a love affair going with Thanksgiving. It has been going on as far back as I can remember. Hands down, it’s my favorite holiday of all. Here’s why . . . First, there is no way it can be commercialized. Have you noticed? Shopping centers jump from spooks to Santa . . . pumpkins to presents . . . orange and black to red and green. It’s doubtful that any of us has ever seen (or will ever see) a Pilgrim hype. Just can’t be done. Except for grocery stores, merchants are mute when Thanksgiving rolls around.

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Tears at Christmas

I’VE LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO know that sometimes Christmas hurts. And when words fail, tears flow. In some remarkable way, our complex inner-communication system knows when to admit its verbal limitations and signal its need for assistance. It’s an amazing thing. Lips that previously moved freely begin to quiver.

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Finding Fulfillment

FULFILLMENT MUST BE ONE OF life’s choicest gifts. It is a major building block toward authentic happiness. No doubt, Solomon had it in mind when he wrote these timeless words: If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored. It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them. PROVERBS 13:18–19

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Don’t Flinch, Stand Firm

TUCKED AWAY IN THE FOLDS OF Hebrews 11 is a two-word biography worth a second glance: “He endured” (11:27, NASB). The Living Bible says, “[he] kept right on going.” The New International Version: “He persevered.” The New English Bible: “He was resolute.” The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition: “He held staunchly to his purpose.” And Moffatt’s quaint rendering: “He never flinched.”

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Just Be You

THERE IS ONLY ONE YOU. In our overly-populated, identity-crisis era it is easy to forget this. Individuality is played down. We are asked to conform to the “system.” This results in what I’d like to call an image syndrome, especially among the members of God’s family called Christians. My mind lands upon a fig-picker from Tekoa . . . a rough, raw-boned shepherd who was about as subtle as a Mack truck on the Santa Ana Freeway.

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Being a Miracle

HER VOICE WAS WEAK and fearful as she spoke to me over the phone. It was almost midnight, and she kept apologizing . . . but she was so lonely and wanted someone to listen. I never got her name nor her address nor enough hints about her location to follow up our conversation. Her desperate story broke my heart. I wept after she said “Good-bye—thanks for listening.”

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Sheep, Not Cattle

EVER GET THAT cattle-in-the-corral feeling? Sure you have. Whether it’s sitting in morning traffic or standing in a long check-out line at Walmart-it’s easy to feel as if you’re only a blip on the radar of some cosmic force, herding people like cattle to their inevitable ends. Aside from the physical and emotional discomfort of being shoved around like thick-skinned creatures with horns, there’s a subtle signal that goes off inside us with damaging results.

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