A Brain, a Heart and Courage

By Linda Tancs

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets up with three characters, each seeking a different attribute. The scarecrow wants a brain. The tin man wants a heart. And the lion wants courage. That’s a pretty good summation of what we need to persevere through life: wisdom, love and courage.

The Bible exhorts us to gain wisdom (see, e.g., James 1:5; Proverbs 3:13-18). How do you do that? By reading the Bible, the source of all God’s knowledge and understanding. Wisdom is a gift from God, the means to discern the truth in all things. We’re told to love wisdom, and wisdom will protect us (Proverbs 4:6-7). Above all, though, we are commanded to love God (Deuteronomy 10:12) and extend that love to our neighbors (Luke 10:27). It’s fair to say that the pursuit of wisdom and love takes courage. It’s so much easier to hide one’s head in the sand, avoiding truth and neglecting the work to build strong relationships. Yet we’re reminded to be strong and of good courage (Deuteronomy 31:6). That’s because fear, insecurity and anxiety undermine the courage we need to foster effective personal and professional relationships. But you’re an overcomer! Stand firm and apply the power formula of wisdom, love and courage to persevere through life’s tasks and struggles.

The Challenge of Love

By Linda Tancs

Is there anyone in your family who is difficult to love, who pushes all the wrong buttons? Maybe it feels like you’re surrounded by fiery beasts or tongues like sharp swords, as David described in Psalm 57:4. Perhaps your nemesis is a child, parent, spouse, sibling or extended family member, or even many of the above. You might be tempted to think ‘well, I don’t have to love anyone who won’t love me back or treats me unfairly.’ Don’t give in and fail to accept the challenge of love. Love is, after all, the foundation of our existence and evidence of our oneness with God. There is no commandment greater than love, as Paul reminded the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:13) and John told his readers (1 John 4:16). Likewise, Jesus exhorted his followers that everything hinges on love of God and love of others (Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; John 13:34-35).

A spiritual teacher once remarked that we should give thanks for the difficult people in our lives because they teach us how much work we may still need to do in the love walk. Those who are easiest to love actually teach us very little. So put on an “attitude of gratitude” the next time you feel tormented, and work on walking it out.

Shake It Off

By Linda Tancs

Singer Taylor Swift wrote a song called Shake It Off. The hit song reminds us that sometimes you just have to “shake it off.” Shake off the rude behavior, the office politics, the insults, the deceit and so on. The apostle Paul knew how to shake it off. So did Jesus. In one instance in Paul’s case, he literally shook it off when a snake attached itself to his hand and he simply shook it off, suffering no ill effects (Acts 28:5). And Jesus reminded his disciples to shake the dust off their feet and move on if a town was unwelcoming (Matthew 10:14).

What do you need to shake off? Are you holding on to a grudge, resentment or anger? It hurts you more than the person who offended you. As someone once said, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Shake it off.

Rinse and Repeat

By Linda Tancs

You can find biblical inspiration anywhere, even on a shampoo bottle. The instructions to “rinse and repeat” offer a reminder to put off the old nature so you can put on the new nature (Ephesians 4:22-24). Of course, Paul is talking about abandoning a sinful nature and adopting a new nature, one that incorporates a pure heart (Psalm 51:10). A pure heart clothes itself with a spirit of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12-14).

You’ll likely need to renew your spirit over and over because the devil is always on the prowl, seeking to throw you off course (1 Peter 5:8). That’s when resentment, impatience, unkindness, arrogance and anger—the old nature—set in. So, like the instructions on a shampoo bottle, be sure to rinse off the old nature and repeat as necessary.

Oh, No You Don’t

By Linda Tancs

Writer and poet Khalil Gibran once wrote that we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty and obey only love. That’s pretty much the foundation for the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). Those rules illustrate our ideal relationship with God (verses 3 through 11) as well as our relationship with others (verses 12 through 17).

Have you ever wondered why so many are written as negative injunctions (thou shalt not) rather than positive ones (thou shalt)? The discipline of social psychology did not yet exist, but the basis for the commandments’ efficacy may lie there. According to some scientists, we judge the violation of a “shalt not” more harshly than the failure to observe a “shalt.” So for the sake of an ordered society, we probably need more “shalt nots” in the form of proscriptions against theft, murder and deception as dictated in the commandments. And for the sake of our relationship with God, we need proscriptions against idolatry and defamation to define, develop and enhance our relationship with Him. Regardless of the form of the injunction, though, we learn through the Ten Commandments to love God and love His children, something Jesus would later say sums up all of the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:35-40).

The Light Within

By Linda Tancs

Author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true meaning is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

That’s a good reminder to find the light within you. All the time. And everywhere—on the grocery line, at the doctor’s office, in the chemo room. Strive to be full of light—and life—in all circumstances. Why? Because we are like light for the whole world (Matthew 5:14-16). No one ever said life would be easy, fun or painless—all the more reason not to be immune to the wonders of the life all around you. Be vibrant.

We’re All Related

By Linda Tancs

There’s a beautiful Native American sculpture in Rapid City, South Dakota, entitled “We Are All Related.” It’s intended to represent hope for reconciliation, dignity and respect for the human race. I think it serves as a wonderful spiritual reminder that we are all part of God’s family, reconciled in Christ.

The Bible reminds us of our familial relationship in several places. For instance, John’s gospel states that believers in Christ earn the right to be called children of God (John 1:12). Although we may be separated geographically or culturally, we are not strangers or aliens but rather fellow citizens of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19-22). We were predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5), entitling us to call God our Father (Romans 8:15).

Outside familial bloodlines, are you able to see others as “relatives”? You may belong to a church where members regularly refer to each other as “brother” or “sister.” If so, how does it resonate with you? Do you leave the sentiment behind at the church door? Only through putting our spiritual inheritance into practice can we truly build a kingdom economy on earth (Matthew 6:10) that reconciles, dignifies and respects.

Guard Your Heart

By Linda Tancs

What’s in your heart right now? Is it love? Compassion? Fear? Hatred? Envy? Anxiety?  If you’re not sure, then listen to what comes out of your mouth. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that the power of life and death is in the tongue, and out of an abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). If your heart is filled with love and compassion, then your tongue is likely to speak life-affirming words to others—words of encouragement, affection, appreciation and so on. Conversely, if your heart is full of joy-robbing emotions like hatred, anger, resentment, fear or anxiety, then you’re likely to convey negativity to others, especially those closest to you. However, unlike the old Mills Brothers song, you don’t always have to hurt the one you love. Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).

 

 

Rock of Ages

By Linda Tancs

I’m captivated by large boulders, especially those with a history. In New York City alone, the giant outcroppings framing many of the city’s most prominent open spaces arise from bedrock ranging in age from 1.1 billion to 190 million years old. Those are rocks of ages, but not the Rock.

The Lord is often referred to as our Rock, especially in the Psalms (see, e.g., Psalm 18:31; 28:1; 42:9; 62:7; 78:35; 92:15; 94:22 and 144:1). It’s a particularly apt metaphor, considering that rocks symbolize strength and stability. In biblical terms, a rock also presents a place of refuge, as David discovered on his many retreats from the threats of Saul (1 Samuel 24:1-7). And during the exodus, a rock represented a miraculous source of water for the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:15). In summary, a rock symbolizes strength, protection and provision. Is it any wonder that it’s used so frequently in the Bible to refer to God, our true Rock of Ages?

In God’s Hands

By Linda Tancs

I love watching antiques shows and other programs that explore the value of things. A baseball is just a baseball unless Babe Ruth threw it. A dusty painting in the attic is worth at best a few dollars unless it turns out to be a da Vinci.

On a spiritual level, the value of things turns out quite differently when placed in God’s hands. Jesus was able to take a few loaves of bread and some fish on two occasions and feed thousands of people (Matthew 14:13-21 and 15:32-39; Mark 6:31-44 and 8:1-9; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14).  He also turned water into wine at a wedding ceremony, performing his first miracle (John 2:1-11). In each case, His divine ability to meet the needs of everyone around Him is illustrated.

Imagine how powerful it would be to place your cares in God’s hands. The returns are priceless.