Thursday, August 4, 2022

A Modern Portrait of Humility: A Tribute

Remember this verse from last week? 

It was key #2 to unlocking God's lessons on humility (#1 was knowing who we are in light of who He is)... 

I hadn't quite put the period on last week's blog post, when I began to turn my attention to this week's "thought."

In my journal, just prior to shooting my words into the blogosphere, I jotted down the following:


I have met some of these people...the ones who serve, and the ones who are, what I consider, some of the happiest, humblest people on earth.

It is only appropriate that I share a small portrait of one such individual:  A Moses in humility...a dear friend, who back in 2010, became World Magazine's "Daniel of the Year." (you can access his profile by connecting to the link). 


Throughout his 36 years, serving in medical missions throughout Kenya, Dick Bransford, brought hope, healing, and most important of all, the gospel to millions - but, he served far and wide beyond Kenya's borders, going to some of the toughest places on the planet.

His specialty: helping disabled children - some of the most marginalized, and overlooked, in third world countries. 

Bay and I were honored to call the Bransford family, our family. 

And, Dick, and his wife, Millie, loved us and mentored us well. 

We never passed Dick on our mission station, that he didn't stop us, chat for a minute, and ask: "So what are you reading now..."

It was his delight to push us out of our comfort zones that we might grow beyond our secluded little Rift Valley Academy world.

We wanted to be just like Dick and Millie when we "grew up." 

On July 23, Dick passed away at home in Boone, NC at age 81. 

The world truly lost a gem....a truly great man. 

Yet, what I want you to see is how great man are only great when they learn nothing is beneath them when it comes to serving. 

NOTHING!!!!


Great men and women serve just like Jesus. They are those who:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [themselves]. 
These folks:
Look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others...and, have this mind, which is in Christ Jesus: who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself...
(Philippians 2:3-8)

******

With this passage, I close with one brief scenario from Dick's life:

For 11-frightening-days, during our sweet time at RVA, Bay struggled, bed-ridden with malaria, as did our youngest daughter, Mandy (age 7).  

Dick had seen Bay and Mandy, given me the necessary meds that left them "swimming like they were under water," and warned me at one point, that perhaps they had more than just malaria, but possibly black water fever, and I was to keep a close eye on them. 

Their medication schedules had me up nursing the two of them around the clock, with me catching the little sleep I could for rarely more than an hour at a time. 

While still caring for them, I “coached” (ha!) Bay’s little basketball team, continued teaching my few classes, handed out assignments in his classes, and stayed up with our dorm boys, as well as our daughter, Steph, and son, Adam, while on the fly. 

 (first prayer card picture taken when we left for Kenya)

There was no question, I was getting pretty tired…and then, one blessed Sunday morning, Dick showed up at my door, still dressed for the hospital, having just made some of his own rounds, and ordered me to bed for a nap, while he kept an eye on Mandy and Bay, fevers still raging, still delirious and “seeing things" (we’ve had some good laughs over Bay requesting me to take those four guys standing in his room to the rodeo in Nairobi - when there were no guys, let alone a rodeo)…. 

At any rate, that nap was exactly what was needed…and I was able to keep the pace until both were recovered. 

Bless him, I know Dick ran on very little sleep with all of his responsibilities, but his heart was HUGE…and his humility was even HUGER (is that a word?)…. 

Dick had his own family at home.

He had a hospital filled with patients.

He had a trip planned within the upcoming week to a strictly Muslim island off the coast of Kenya where he had found favor with the powers-that-be to bring modern Western medicine to a group of people stuck in "15th-century-living." 

And, still, Dick Bransford had time for me.

He had time to care for my sick husband and daughter, shoo away needy dorm boys, and feed my other two kids lunch, just so I could catch a few hours of a nap. 

Who does that? 

Only those who have learned that serving others is serving Jesus, and they love to do it with GREAT JOY.

Only those who recognize who they really are in light of all they have been given by the Lord Jesus Christ, and, thus, live out of a heart of humility. 

Only those who recognize NOTHING is beneath them...and, so, look to the interests of others..


Our world needs more Dick and Millie Bransfords, who shine the light of Jesus, as they serve with GLADNESS. 

Dick Bransford left my family an incredible inheritance.

No, it wasn't money (he wasn't wealthy - though, indeed, he could have been)...

What Dick left us was much greater...

The knowledge that serving out of a heart of humility, not seeing ourselves above or beyond any opportunity the Lord puts in our path, brings great reward in the form of peace and joy. 

Until that day...may we live out the legacy you left us, Dick Bransford...and continue to put other's needs ahead of our own. 

It’s exactly the kind of leader Moses was...

It's exactly how Jesus lived…


Want to hear more about this humble man?  Another dear friend wrote a great book about his life and it's on Amazon (click on link).



Thursday, July 28, 2022

Humble Serving!


For almost two weeks, the above verse has been floating in and out of my mind...

Five little words, pretty easy to memorize. 

Extremely difficult to fulfill. 

We "serve" the Lord, working for Him, Scripture tells us, anytime we serve someone else.


The Apostle Paul reminds us, that, in fact, all our work should be "as unto the Lord."


 I prefer to pick and choose my areas of service...like when I'm rested, on my own timing, in my own way, with the right kind of audience, and when I feel good about it. 

Yet, if I waited til the "conditions" of serving seemed perfect in my own mind, it would never happen.

And, sometimes, it seems, serving opportunities just fall into my lap at simply the worst possible moments. 

In times like this, I certainly don't welcome my serving with gladness...

That word...at its core, it hints festivity, as with exceeding mirth and joy.

Seriously? 

Ugh.

Do I have to? 

(I think I see a nod from heavenly places.)

The truth is that in God's School of Humility, there is no learning this Christ-like quality without it. 

This was, in fact, Moses' first class in God's School (remember Numbers 12:3 - Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth). 

After Moses fled for his life from Pharaoh, running all the way to the land of Midian (approximately 360 miles as the crow flies), he sat down by a well to rest. 

While he sat, the seven daughters of the priest of Midian (Jethro) came to water their father's sheep.

Other shepherds attempted to drive them away, but Moses stood up, rescued the girls, and watered their flock. 

For the next 40 years, he continued to serve, care for, and lead the man's sheep........in the wilderness.......in obscurity........where nobody really saw and nobody really cared (except Jethro, obviously). 


Do you get the humor?

1. The once "Prince of Egypt," raised and educated to sit on Pharaoh's throne, purposed to one day govern and lead a nation - the man who knew the finery of palace-living - now hid himself away on the backside of a desert governing and leading sheep.

2. Egyptians despised shepherds. Shepherds didn't quite make the bottom rung on the social ladder. Now Moses had become everything he was taught to abhor. 

Yet, here, Moses found contentment (Exodus 2:21). 


His new life fit him. 

He became friends with all that had befallen him.

From prince to pauper - he was OK!

From somebody to nobody - he was GOOD!

From highly educated to mindless mundane work - he was more than WILLING!

From being served to serving - he was GLAD! 

But, most of all....from ostentatious pride to quiet humbleness - LESSON LEARNED! 


It took 40 years to drive Egypt out of Moses, to prepare him to be exactly what the Lord needed to lead His flock of sheep to the Promised Land...

BUT...

In learning to serve the Lord with gladness at all times, whenever God put the opportunity in front of him, Moses' developed a heart that beat with God's heart for God's people...

Only a true humble shepherd could do what God asked of Moses. 


So, Assignment #2 in our humility-education:

Let's each look for a way to serve this week, just for serving's sake...

Anonymously.

Behind the scenes.

Willingly.

With heart-felt-gladness. 

P.S. I have the perfect example of this kind of humility to share with you next week...

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Humble Beginnings....

 

Yesterday morning, I slipped away a little before 6:30, kayak strapped into the back of my husband's truck and drove the 6-minutes to our nearby little lake.

It's so close, yet I can count on one hand the number of times I've been out this summer, with fingers to spare (it's simply been busier than anticipated - in a totally good way - no regrets).


 

But there's something about being in the stillness: listening to the melodic birdsong, watching the ripples in the lake as the fish jump and splash, following the ducks as they paddle past with little fingerling-fish still in their beaks from morning fishing, seeing the dragon flies flit about, gazing as the local deer jump gracefully over the fences to come closer to the water's edge for a drink, raising my head as an eagle soars over-head, discovering an osprey nest as mama feeds her little ones, feeling the warmth of the rising sun on my cheeks, and hearing the whispers of gentle breezes stirring the reeds and wild-flowers along the shore. 



It just does something to my soul. 

And, yesterday morning it dawned on me what that "something" is...

IT'S HUMBLING!!!!

It humbles me there in the stillness as I bask in the rich blessings of the creation about me. 


If the creation is so magnificent...

...what about the CREATOR of it all? 

How MAJESTIC must He be...

How AWE-MAZING...

How MAGNIFICENT...

How HOLY and SOVEREIGN...

Yet this CREATOR cares about me...

And, I'm reminded of...and echo the Psalmist (8:3-9, The Message):

When I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,

your handmade sky-jewelry,

Moon and stars mounted in their settings.

Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,

Why do you bother with us [me]?

Why take a second look our [my] way?

Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,

bright with Eden’s dawn light.

You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,

repeated to us your Genesis-charge,

Made us stewards of sheep and cattle,

even animals out in the wild,

Birds flying and fish swimming,

whales singing in the ocean deeps.

GOD, brilliant Lord,

your name echoes around the world.

Yesterday was about perspective, which reminds me who I am:

I am but a fleck of dust floating about the cosmos...

Yet the Creator honors me...

By making me in His image (and, of course, not just me, BUT every babe still-in-the-womb to every man-or-woman-with-one-foot-in-the-grave), He crowns me with glory...

As His child, I am royalty...

Destined for the throne...

Designed with purpose...

And, He delights in me...


I don't get it, and therefore, I am humbled…all because of WHOSE I AM!

There is no room for pride as long as I see myself through His eyes  

I am HIS!!! 

I AM THAT I AM calls me His own. 

Assignment #1 in humility:

Sit with the Creator in His Creation. 

Don't let a thing escape your notice.

Gain perspective of who you really are in light of all things made...and, yet who He says you are by His Word.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Humility: NOT a Vaporous Dream...

...and sometimes this 👆gets me into trouble!

The problem with writing is that it requires words. 

Those words are linked together to create a sentence; then, one sentence links together with another and another to form a paragraph; and, ultimately, paragraphs combine to comprise a blog post. 

What's missing is body language.

Most importantly, the eyes of the author are absent.

Without the eyes, one can not see into the soul.

And, an author's soul just can't be spilled out entirely through ink...no matter how much one tries.

This said, oh, how I struggle to put into words, sentences, and paragraphs my current study on pride and humility. 

So, sometimes when I write, I don't pay enough attention to getting my heart across....and, the end result is that the poison of pride seeps into that ink. 

God hates pride. 

I hate pride....my own pride!

AND, the more I research, read God's Word, attempt to glean a deeper understanding, it seems the more my own pride raises its ugly head.

I haven't conquered it - not by a long shot!

Heaven forbid that I ever communicate that I have! A big apology when it has mindlessly occurred.

But, humility isn't a vaporous dream, either....it is, in no way, a cloud that will constantly and illusively slip through my fingers.

Pride does not have the final say!

I have hope...

Hope of humility flew into my world this week, as I randomly read one Scripture verse and remembered another.

Numbers 12:3 crept into mind (oh, not the exact "address," but the words): 


At first I chuckled.

Moses, himself, probably wrote the words that make up the sentence, that make up the paragraphs, that make up the book of Numbers (And, I wonder if we truly catch an accurate glimpse of his heart in his writings, as well).

Yet, Moses wrote as God directed, as did other writers of God's Words (now, this sentence may have been added later by Joshua, but we don't know that for sure).

The point is:

GOD wanted these words in the book of Numbers.

It reminds us of our hope for humility...and ultimately holiness (for "the journey toward humility truly leads to holiness" - Andrew Murray).

At that specific time, Moses was VERY HUMBLE...the humblest on earth, in fact; but, that is not the way Moses' story began.

Moses' life was divided into three, 40-year-segments. 

During, his first 40-years, Moses grew up thinking he was pretty special. 

In fact, the historian Josephus, tells us that Moses' birth-mom, Jochebed, no doubt instilled this notion into Moses all through the years she nursed and educated him before handing him to Pharaoh's daughter to raise (roughly 5 years). In fact, according to Josephus, Jochebed truly believed that Moses' was the promised redeemer who would lead God's people out of bondage...

His other-mother, Pharaoh's daughter, made sure he was being raised and educated as an Egyptian to take the throne of Pharaoh one day. She, too, assured Moses of his unique "special calling."

So, Moses, believing he was the all-around "I am" of the moment, took matters into his own hands (taking the place of God = PRIDE), and the Lord wouldn't allow it. No way was Moses going to step into his real calling, NOT UNTIL the Almighty, took Moses through His School of Humility. 

So, off Moses went to the wilderness for his next 40 years of training, where, ironically, he herded sheep (1. if there was one thing Egyptians were taught to disdain and despise, it was SHEPHERDS; Moses was the very thing he grew up hating; and, 2. There is nothing more akin to herding sheep than herding people). 

Talk about training in humility!

Over those 40 years, Moses realized he was pretty much insignificant. 

He was reduced to rubble while learning how to be loving, gentle, kind, caring, compassionate, patient, accepting, forgiving, sacrificial, submissive to the Lord, willing to serve, and to put others first.....

In other words, he learned HUMILITY!

Ever feel like you're on the back side of a desert? Ever wonder why it's just day after day after day of waiting for God to do SOMETHING....ANYTHING? 

Maybe God has you there for some purpose you can't even see as He "schools" you...

Now at 80, the Lord was ready to use Moses.


A few kinks were still being worked out at the Burning Bush (& from time to time along the way to the Promised Land)...but Moses was ready to graduate.

When the bush stopped burning, there stood a new Moses:

A man who was NOTHING, yet a man whom God could fill and use mightily. 

A man who knew he was NOTHING, but that God was EVERYTHING.

A man who now asked, "Who am I that I should go?" 

And, a man who heard God say, "You are right, you are not the i am, but I AM the I AM...."


Yep, there's hope for humility in us all.

It takes a little schooling...and a little waiting...and, a little setting aside of self...AND, a whole lot of trusting God, who is truly the I AM!

So....I'm ready to learn some of those finer skills of humility.

I'm enrolling in God's School of Humility...

...and, there will be a few more thoughts on this next week....


Thursday, July 7, 2022

A 4th of July Lament

Warning & FYI: this is the beginning of an after 4th of July lament that began a few weeks back. 

I'm mentally putting pieces of thoughts into one place - creating a file for handy reference.

Perhaps this has crossed your mind, as well...

So, I'll gladly accept your thoughts and laments.

#####

My mind is torn this morning on how to live in a world where evil is ever increasing.......and, called good

(As a side, good is also called evil.)

I never thought I'd live to see it so blatantly. 

It shouldn't surprise me.

Scripture warns us of it; and, adds a "woe" to those folks who buy into it. 

Definition:  "Woe" in God's Word is an exclamation of grief that comes from a heart broken by stubborn blindness of God's people.


I've been struggling with this whole dilemma for a couple of weeks.

Bay and I were headed out to my birthday dinner, when I noticed a sign in front of one of our local bars. the sign invited those interested to a "Pride Party" for that same evening from 7 PM to 11 PM.

Now, I know what the intent was: it was a closing celebration for the completion of June's "Pride Month." 

When we think of Pride Month, it is usually followed by a string of letters (that seems to keep growing) reminding Americans to be more inclusive of those who live by the letters which represent their specific Gender Identity.

FOR THE RECORD: THIS BLOG HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER IDENTITY.

In fact, I'm removing the whole concept of LGBTQIA+!

It's the whole notion of celebrating "pride" that shocked me.

I shook my head ------like that might help the whole idea fall into place...fit into a file somewhere up there in my brain...register in my mind in a way that made sense...

My first question:

When did pride lose its status as the #1 sin of the 7 DEADLY SINS, so generally accepted for centuries???

My second:

When did God's Word change in regard to pride? Here's just a sampling....





Oh, listen, I recognize I, too, use the word flippantly.

I tell the grands how proud I am of them far too frequently, when what I mean is I'm extremely pleased, thankful, delighted in, and encouraged by the good I see them doing. Perhaps I need to re-think my verbiage!

Yet, in America, we are encouraging, to the likely potential our very destruction, celebrations that focus on our self-centered desires (definition of pride)!!!!

We are partying in favor of playing God!!! 

We are encouraging evil!!!

Instead, as followers of Jesus, we should be lamenting.

For Americans to celebrate evil so easily (I'm reminding you, I've removed the Gender Identity piece, and we are talking simply of the sin of pride) is to invite God's opposition, His destruction, His detestation...

The Word of God is clear: 

GOD HATES PRIDE!

BUT....I love my country!

Greatest country in the world (BTW-I've lived overseas, and I've traveled some bit out of this country)!

AND, YET this holiday, I lament for my country. 

There's no way a pride party is exclusive to small town America. It's everywhere...

We must remember what really caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and not let history repeat itself:


So, lament and grieve we must if we are to protect this land that the majority of us have come to enjoy!

#####
But, to lament, where do we begin?

Here are a few thoughts I've followed as I cry out my grief for this country:


1. Laments typically open with an address (see Psalm 22: "My God, My God")


2. Psalms of lament will contain a complaint (see Psalm 44:22)


3. Laments then turn to a request from the Lord (see Psalm 44:23)


4. Finally, laments always end with a declaration of trust in God as the writer remembers God's faithfulness in the past (see Psalm 13:5).

To be honest, I'm still working on my lament. It's unpublishable at present. But with this little outline, would you join me in lamenting for America, asking our sweet Lord to bring back a desire for HUMILITY, requesting His protection for this land, and remembering His faithfulness to us for these 246 years!

Sure would love to see your laments! 


Thursday, June 30, 2022

I Am....Humble.

 


A couple weeks back, I looked at this same passage. 

This morning, I find I am back again, zeroing in on the word "humble." 

Jesus invites us, not just to take up His yoke, not just to discover a sweet rest for our souls, but He invites us into this aspect of His character - 

HUMILITY 

As He invites us, He says, "Let me teach you..."

Believe me, above all character traits, I need this one (more on that in a minute)!

According to Andrew Murray (Humility, 1884): 

"Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us sharers in it, and by it to bring us salvation." 

Why?  Because humility was lost to us in the Garden, when the enemy of our souls injected the venom of pride into mankind.

#####

Recently I received an invitation to speak at an upcoming women's retreat in another state. 

The committee for this retreat audaciously picked this topic of humility as their theme for the weekend.

I should have known this might prove a dangerous journey of study as soon as they mentioned it...but, found myself feeling led to accept regardless.

As soon as I agreed, the same ugly serpent from the Garden reared his head, sinking his teeth into my soul..

Allow me to explain.

As I accepted the opportunity, the women's ministry director started spelling out the particulars for the weekend.  In a previous conversation, I had been told there would be three sessions over Saturday and Sunday; however, when we began nailing down the details, it became clearer to me that the gal at the head of the committee took the first two sessions, and I closed out with the third. 

My train of thought as this unfolded:

"But, I don't really like the "one and done" events...I feel more comfortable when I have time to build relationship with the ladies who are in attendance."

"I'll be driving 10 hours, two ways, for just one speaking time?"

"I've never been asked to speak at a retreat where the speaking sessions were divided, and, how do we maintain a flow and build on the theme adequately?"

"Actually, this feels a bit demeaning....like they don't trust me??????????"

And, voilá...just like that the poison of pride coursed it's way through me...

Yes, sweet Jesus, teach me to be more like you.

#####

With that backdrop, I started digging (deeply) into a study on pride, and it's opposite - humility. 

Some things I've learned about pride:

Considered the "original sin" in Scripture with Satan's fall, pride is listed as the most serious of all sins, and #1 on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins, first published as far back as the 6th Century. 

It's the most serious, for from it all other sins spring forth...

When employed, at pride's core, one is really saying, 

"I want to be like God...no, I want to replace God...in fact, I want to be God."

That alone puts pride at the top of the sin-list...

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes about pride that it is:

"the anti-God-state, the position in which ego and self are directly opposed to God. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunken-ness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison..."

This thought is,,,,well, just, WOW!

Through pride, the devil became the devil...and, we are never more like the enemy of our souls, than when selfish pride gets in our way. 

I also found this Benjamin Franklin quote worth contemplating:


Needless to say, as I am just beginning my study, I've been deeply CONVICTED...

BUT (what a great word)!!!!!

There is good news.

There is an anti-venom for pride - it's costly, however, as most anti-venoms are:

The cross of Christ provides the basis for humility: 

Living in the shadow of the cross...in a place of total dependence on God...

Quoting Andrew Murray, once again:

Too many of us don't realize how wonderful and natural it is to become nothing, so Jesus can be our all in all... We haven't been taught that it isn't sin that humbles us most, but GRACE! 

To rightly see ourselves in light of Christ's death for us, undeserving as we are of His great mercy extended toward us, sets us up to maintain a humble perspective.

The greats of old certainly understood the need for Christians to walk humbly before their God...

We live in an era, where we must consider it more than anything.