Light Shines in the Darkness

In Nepal, where blindness is prevalent due to under-funded medical care and a lack of eye doctors, ophthalmologist Sanduk Ruit has made it his mission to treat poor people. He’s performed more than 130,000 cataract surgeries to restore sight, sometimes walking for a week with surgical equipment in tow to reach patients. Dr. Ruit also found a way for replacement lenses to be made locally for less than $3 each, rather than buying them internationally for 100 times as much. The physician brings healing to remote villages and celebrates “big eye-opening festivals” with people who “were blind yesterday, and … are seeing today.”

At Christmas we celebrate the Word of God who came to live among us as Jesus, the light of the world. In countless ways since, God has brought light to those living in literal or figurative darkness.

We celebrate people, such as Dr. Ruit and the 650 doctors he has trained, whom God uses to cause “light [to shine] in the darkness” (John 1:5).

light of world

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

Exercising Our Gratitude Muscles

give thanks

Expressing gratitude isn’t just a good thing to do; it also appears to be good for us! Indiana University researchers found that participants who performed gratitude-focused writing exercises felt uplifted, and were more likely to express gratefulness through generosity, even weeks later.

Furthermore, brain scans revealed increased gratitude-related activity even months down the road (New York Magazine).

Though the study was small, we seem to have a “gratitude muscle” that can be strengthened through exercise. If so, there may be more than we thought to the popularity of gratitude journals and Mom’s insistence that we write thank-you notes. Not to mention the biblical call to “give thanks to the LORD, for he is good” (1 Chronicles 16:34, for example).

Might God have hardwired us for gratitude — not only at Thanksgiving but year round — because it’s good for us as well as for those we thank? To that, we respond, “Thanks be to God!”

A Life of Thanks Giving

woman s hand using a pen noting on notepad

Numbered lists grab our attention. In the checkout aisle or on the internet, we gravitate toward headings such as “10 ways to lose weight by summer!” or “3 simple steps to acing that test!”

Ancient Jewish sages urged people to count out and speak at least 100 blessings, or statements of gratitude, each day. What would happen if we intentionally listed 100 blessings daily? Can you imagine?!

What if the first blessing we counted was simply the day itself? “Thank you, God, for this brand new day!” “Bless my use of this day, Lord, that I might glorify you.” Scripture encourages such awareness and promises an additional blessing in return: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NIV).

—Heidi Mann

Jumping to Conclusions

brown leather wallet and us dollar banknote

John was driving home late one night when he picked up a hitchhiker.  As they rode along, he began to be suspicious of his passenger.  John checked to see if his wallet was safe in the pocket of his coat that was on the seat between them, but it wasn’t there!  So he slammed on the brakes, ordered the hitchhiker out, and said, “Hand over the wallet immediately!”  The frightened hitchhiker handed over a billfold, and John drove off.  When he arrived home, he started to tell his wife about the experience, but she interrupted him, saying, “Before I forget, John, do you know that you left your wallet at home this morning?”

Let’s be careful not to form our opinions about others until we have all the facts.  Instead, we should first take an honest look at ourselves.  Many unkind words have been spoken and many relationships have been hurt because someone was too quick to judge another person.  How important it is not to jump to conclusions!

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?  Luke 6:41

 

— from Our Daily Bread, the Collector’s Edition

More Than Reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic

You may recall that many followers of Jesus called him “Rabbi.” In essence, the word means teacher. Clearly the word describes the brilliant Nazarene who was constantly teaching his listeners about God and God’s expectations of humans.

In a secular society, it is of paramount importance that the teachings of Christ be proclaimed and affirmed wherever possible. In the early days of our country, it was customary for public schools to teach reading, writing and arithmetic as well as Christian principles. Subjects being taught were presented in a setting of morality, religion and character development.

The reading book compiled by William H. McGuffey in 1836 focused on such themes as self-denial, temperance, obedience, and warned against laziness, profanity, stealing and vanity.

In our time, however, when it is difficult to focus on God and spiritual matters in public schools, our churches and families have a great responsibility. Sunday school attendance, not only for children but for adults as well, must be of primary importance. Prayer, as well as discussion of social issues from a Christian point of view, must be practiced in the home and church. We must learn and teach about Christ.

“Learn from me,” Jesus said. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 NRSV). Where shall we learn of him or from him if not in our churches and homes?

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

perfect church

 

A Look at Beauty

Remember kaleidoscopes — those tubes you hold up to your eye and point toward the light to see colorful shapes? When the far end of the optical instrument is turned, fragments of material inside an “object cell” shift and mirrors set at angles reflect light through the pieces, forming ever-changing patterns. A multi-hued flower might become sunlight through a round stained-glass window or fireworks on a clear night.

kaleidoscopes

Various materials can be placed in the cell — tiny figures, twisted bits of metal, lace, viscous liquid — but often broken bits of glass are used, to beautiful effect! In fact, David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope in 1817, named it after the Greek word kalos, for “beauty.”

Everyone feels broken, twisted or shattered at times. But when God’s perfect light shines in and through us, reflecting among the fragments of our imperfect lives, we, too, become beautiful. Out of our sinfulness and brokenness shines the beauty of compassion, kindness, perseverance, hope, love — delightful patterns to brighten this hurting world.

Labors of Love

two men holding two gray metal tools

Thomas Merton, an American monk, writer and social activist, said, “It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God.” As the United States observes Labor Day, may we find meaning not simply in marking summer’s end but in celebrating the ways nearly all “duties and labors of life” can empower ministry and faith.

Whether as a dentist, parent, artist, teacher, mechanic, gardener, city councilor, farmer, day laborer, attorney or anything else, a Christian can begin each workday or shift by praying for opportunities to serve whoever they’ll encounter. We also can pray for and seek ways to grow in “spiritual union with God”: cultivating spiritual fruits; actively loving God and neighbor; seeing Jesus in the vulnerable; practicing humility, gratitude and praise.

In Labor Day, may we find inspiration to make all our labors loving and faithful!