What Others Say

am writing you this on behalf of my Mother, She is 88 years old and almost completely home-bound now. She sits at home every day and watches a lot of news on TV and says she finds it very discouraging and depressing. She says that she really needed this devotion you wrote in the Sunday, Sept 7, column in the Lufkin Daily News and wanted you to know it was excellent, timely and relevant. She cut it out and reads it over and over.

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Christmas for the Soul

We don’t talk much about the soul.  Other generations did, but not ours.  We are far more focused on our bodies and our money.  This is apparent in our approach to Christmas with our lists of what we want and our search for the perfect gift at the deepest discount.  We seem to have abandoned discussions about the soul to practitioners of New Age and metaphysics. 

The soul is not an organ that can be removed, placed on a laboratory table and analyzed.  We cannot perform a “soul-ectomy.”  We all sense that there is something within us that is more than the sum of our parts, the substance of our being where we make decisions that affect the health of our bodies, our mind and our emotions.  This is our soul. It is the substance and the essence of who we are, especially in relationship to God and to each other.  When the body withers and dies, the soul remains.

Jesus emphasized the importance of the soul.  Regarding the soul in comparison to the body, he said, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”   (Mat. 10:28). With respect to money, Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mat. 16:25-27).  He told a story of a rich man who was focused on his wealth and amassed greater fortunes. “But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'” (Lk 12:20).

David was intimately aware of his soul and referred to the soul often in the Psalms. He gave us clues as to how we can nurture and shape our soul. He said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.”  And “Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in His salvation.” (Ps. 19:7; 35:9).

In some way, the Christmas season reveals the condition of our soul.  If we focus on satisfying ourselves and others with possessions and self-gratification, Christmas becomes a season of stress, leaving us disappointed, exhausted and empty.  But, when we approach Christmas in faith, our soul is stirred.  When we focus on the goodness of God who sent His Son and when we seek opportunities for generosity and comfort to others, we discover joy and gladness. 

Our soul resonates with Mary, the mother of Jesus who sang, “My soul exalts the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my savior. For he has had regard for the humble state of his bondslave; for behold from this time on, all generations will count me blessed.  For the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is His name. And his mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.  He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent the rich away empty handed.” (Lk 1:46-55).

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Beautiful Day

My wife and I went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood last weekend, the Mr. Rogers movie starring Tom Hanks.  We usually go to the matinee, but in this case we had to wait until evening since all the theaters were sold out.  We made our way over snow packed streets, found our seats and sat back to view the movie in a packed theater.

Perhaps the “Mr. Rogers” movie is so popular because we are exhausted by the constant media barrage of political accusations, hatred, prejudice and violence.  We are hungry for gentleness, kindness, acceptance and encouragement.

I expected the movie to be about Fred Rogers, the well-known children’s show host, but the movie focused instead on what Mr. Rogers taught with applications to adult brokenness.  Specifically it focused on the fact that we are neighbors.  Everyone is our neighbor, regardless of race, gender, creed or age. It focused on the importance of forgiveness, especially in our closest relationships.

It does this by introducing us to Lloyd Vogel , a fictional character based on the real life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist, Tom Junod.  Junod began writing for Esquire magazine in 1997 and received two national awards for journalism.   In a live interview, Junod claims the friendship with Mr. Rogers was transformational. He says, “I wasn’t the only one.  He had a long list of people that he ministered to, that he prayed for.  He saw something in me at the time that maybe I didn’t see in myself.”

Of course these teachings do not originate with Mr. Rogers.  He was an ordained Presbyterian minister and believed the teachings of Jesus.  It was Jesus who taught we should love our neighbor as ourselves and defined the meaning of “neighbor” with His story of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37).

It was Jesus who underscored the importance of forgiveness: “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your heavenly Father will not forgive you” (Matthew 6:14-15).  “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Jesus demonstrated what He meant when He hung upon the Cross, the nails ripping at his flesh and the crown of thorns pressed deep into his brow.  He looked upon His tormentors and cried, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

What a different world we make when we treat every man, woman and child as our neighbor, when every wrong suffered is forgiven.

Bill Tinsley’s childrens book, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi is available on Amazon. Click the image to the right.