A word to the wise…

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Wisdom teeth are interesting. They’re the last of our teeth to emerge (somewhere between the ages of 17 and 21) but they’re also the most painful and perhaps the most useless.

They tend to be impacted… meaning the tooth is blocked as it attempts to push through the gum into the mouth. But, even if they come in naturally, most people don’t have enough room in their mouth to accommodate them. The longer they stay, the more likely they’ll cause pain, swelling, infection, or crowd the other teeth.

There’s only one solution… extraction.

Why are they even called wisdom teeth in the first place? The reasoning was that they appear so late (as third teeth) … at an age when people are presumably wiser than they were as a child, when their second teeth came through.

So… that begs the question… is wisdom always painful and does it automatically come with age?

Well… yes and no. Wisdom is quite often painful and, no, it doesn’t automatically come with age.

The dictionary defines wisdom as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment”… things that take time and, often, trial and error. It’s rare that we acquire wisdom when life is going well. But, that’s not to say that wisdom is always the result of age or experience.

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Wisdom isn’t simply intellect, intelligence, or knowledge. It’s the ability to use what we know, or have learned, to think and act in such a way that common sense and good judgement prevail. We also gain valuable wisdom by surrounding ourselves with wise people. But, to gain the best kind of wisdom, we need God.

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Why God’s wisdom?

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Do you know someone who stands out because of their wisdom? Someone you look up to for that reason?

You can be that person.

It’s never too early or too late to seek wisdom.

So… go for it.

Wise up!

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Take a selfie…

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It seems like people are spending a great deal of time and energy weighing in on what others should or shouldn’t be doing or saying. Often, in so doing, their words and actions demonstrate a lack of self-control.

How often do we stop to consider whether our thoughts, words, actions, and reactions are constructive, healthy, and appropriate? Sometimes we can become so focused on what others are saying and doing that we lose sight of what we’re saying and doing.

There’s infinite merit in evaluating ourselves far more than we evaluate others.

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Frequently, people justify their lack of self-control by casting the blame on someone else, highlighting the truth that it’s easier to point the finger at someone else than it is to point it back at ourselves.

The world would be a much better place if we all started taking responsibility for our own actions and reactions.

I’m not saying we can control our feelings. I’m saying we can learn to control when and how we express them.

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I don’t know about you but I want to be someone who’s self-controlled… and to be the first to say I’m wrong whenever I’m not.

The key to self-control?

Self…

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Gentle to the max…

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A few years ago, I had a rescue dog named Max. He did not have the best life for his first 5 years, having been owned by an alcoholic and kept tethered outside. He was sometimes beaten, and his body bore the scars.

He would invariably figure out a way to slip through his collar and make a run for it but also invariably be picked up and taken back to his owner.

Except for the last time.

In the fall of 2009, he found himself at a rescue shelter, where he was adopted out and brought back… three times in short order. The note on the door to his enclosure simply said ‘too much to handle’.

Out of chances, he was scheduled to be put down the first week of January 2010. I came to the shelter the last week of December 2009.

I hadn’t planned to adopt a dog that Christmas. But, when I set eyes on Max, he was sitting quietly against the back wall of his enclosure with his ears back and a green stuffed toy in his mouth. I could sense his anxiety. I could also sense a kind and gentle soul. I could feel my heart tugging in his direction.

I decided to think about it for a couple of days. But, as I walked back to the car, a dog appeared and ran to the end of the fenced-in area to quietly but expectantly wait for me. Realizing it was Max, I bent down and put a couple of fingers through the fence. He immediately dropped to the ground and started gently licking my fingers.

Within the hour, I left the shelter with my new dog.

I can’t claim that it was an easy transition. He not only had to adjust to being an indoor dog, he had never been walked on a leash before, and he was a husky lab shepherd mix who needed a ton of exercise. He also had anxiety issues. Complicating matters was the fact that his previous owner was French, and so Max didn’t even understand English (something I didn’t find out for over a year… and it explained a lot!!). He was also seriously underweight, at only 45 pounds.

But, slowly but surely, we both adjusted. His anxiety lessened, his weight increased (to 78 pounds), and we fell into a routine of 3 one hour walks each day. His kind, funny and quirky nature overshadowed his occasional displays of stubbornness.

The one thing that consistently impressed me was his gentleness. In the beginning, he was so hungry that he would go crazy at the mere thought of food. But, even then, he would always take any treat ever so gently between his teeth, always being careful never to bite down on my fingers.

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The best illustration of his gentleness had to do with boiled eggs, his absolute favorite treat. He would gently take the egg into his mouth and then run down to the mat in front of the patio doors. Sometimes he would come and sit beside me, and we would both consider the egg as it lay there on the mat. Other times, he would just lay beside it, as if standing guard.

When he was finally ready, he would take the egg into his mouth and roll it gently around until, seconds later, he would deposit the yolk – fully intact – back onto the mat. He always made sure that I noticed and then, and only then, would he eat it.

Personally, I think he liked to prolong the experience. Savor the moment. Save the best for last.

I called it his party trick. He never got tired of doing it, and I never got tired of watching.

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Just over 2 years after adopting him, Max suddenly took very ill on Good Friday. By Easter Monday, he was gone. A massive intestinal tumor. Ironically, he’d been given a clean bill of health not even three months before. Just before he was put down, they brought him into a private room where he climbed into my lap and started gently licking my fingers as I wept.

He was gentle in life, gentle in illness, and gentle in death.

I marvel that a dog who had experienced so much hardship could be so gentle. It’s a lesson to us all that, no matter what we’ve experienced in life, it’s up to us what kind of person we will become. We can choose to rise above our circumstances and write a different ending.

Be better instead of bitter. Be gentle instead of harsh.

The moral of the story?

Gently, please…

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Faithfully…

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One example of faithfulness in the Bible is about someone who isn’t often mentioned – King Hezekiah.

20 This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. 21 In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 NIV)

There is great honor in being described as someone who has the reputation of doing what is good and right, of being faithful,  and of working wholeheartedly.

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Faithfulness.

Showing true and constant support or loyalty, being deserving of trust, keeping your promises, and doing what you’re supposed to do.

As with most things, some aspects are easier than others. Some people faithfully frequent a restaurant or follow a sports team or make it a point to always attend a certain event. But, what about things like being faithful to your spouse, always doing the right thing (even and especially when it’s not popular or convenient) or keeping your promises no matter what?

Faithfulness is characterized by steady devotion to a person, thing, or concept… with emphasis on ‘steady devotion’.

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Many people have intentions of faithfulness… it’s the consistent practice of faithfulness that’s harder to maintain. Our best chance of success is to establish in advance what we’re going to be faithful to or faithful about – and why – and then set our hearts and minds in that direction.

If it’s to always do the right thing even when no one is looking, set your mind to do it. If it’s to follow God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body, set your mind to do it. If it’s to honor your marriage vows by being faithful to your spouse, set your mind to do it.

You get my point.

Anything worth pursuing is never easy. But always worth it.

So, keep the faith…

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Thank goodness…

 

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Have you ever felt that life is like a roller coaster… full of ups and downs that are nowhere near as thrilling as the actual ride?

In Psalm 27, we learn that David’s life had its ups and downs. He was transparent about his difficulties, fears, and times of testing. But, he balanced that angst with hope. In verse after verse, he spoke of his commitment to God, and confidence in His character and provision. He never once mentioned putting his hope in anyone but God.

No matter what life brought his way, David relentlessly kept his focus on God. Like most of us, he had times of despair but steadfastly believed he would see the goodness of God in the land of the living. He didn’t know how long before God would give him answers, or before He would intervene in certain situations, or before He would show His face in tangible ways. But, David knew that God’s faithfulness and goodness were certain, regardless of the outcome.

blog 6If you’ve never read the story of David’s life, it’s worth the read. He was a man after God’s own heart but he went through a lot of tough stuff in his life. He experienced betrayal, family problems, threats to his life, life on the run, loss, and times of abject moral failure.

David’s life was never once perfect, and ours never will be either.

Believing we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living doesn’t mean that our circumstances will change. But, it does mean our perspective will change.

I don’t know about you but I need that reminder a lot.

blog 7How many times have I despaired because I took my eyes off God and fixed them on my circumstances instead? How many times have I tried to figure things out on my own instead of crying out to God for help and then resting in His sustaining grace? How many times have I allowed temporal hardships to overshadow eternal hope?

How many times have I sung ‘O, Great is our God’ during praise and worship at church while focusing on ‘O, great are my problems’?

Life is going to bring its share of turmoil, struggles, and tears. There will be times it will be difficult to see past our pain or hardships to find hope in the goodness of God.

But, the goodness of God is not dependent on our circumstances or our feelings. Our circumstances are temporal but God’s goodness is eternal.

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One of the beautiful things about God is that He doesn’t require us to get our lives together before we come to Him. He wants us to come to Him just as we are. And then He comes alongside us to walk with us through whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

It’s only when we surrender everything that brought us to our knees, to the One who alone has the ability to work our circumstances together for good, that we will truly experience God’s goodness in us, for us, and through us.

Honest to goodness…

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Oh my goodness…

 

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The sixth fruit of the Spirit is goodness, which was surprisingly difficult to define. For instance, the dictionary defined it as “the quality of being good”.

What?

Since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, to gain some clarity, I looked up the Greek word for goodness, which is agathosune.

Agathosune is defined as “intrinsic goodness, especially as a personal quality, with emphasis on the kindly (rather than the righteous) side of goodness.”

To have agathosune means to have goodness for the benefit of others and not goodness simply for the sake of being virtuous.

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The four gospels in the Bible are filled with examples of Jesus doing good to everyone regardless of their social status, gender, race, political views, or moral compass. He also did good to his enemies. Even as He was being crucified on the cross, His words extended grace toward those who were putting him to death. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

Acts 10:38 sums up Jesus’ life perfectly by saying that He “went about doing good”. Jesus was the epitome of goodness.

What about me? Could I be described as being the epitome of goodness?

If I’m being honest, the answer is no. It’s not that I go about doing evil. It’s just that, all too often, I get in the way of my own good intentions. I get preoccupied with my life, my problems, my hopes, my dreams… in a word, preoccupied with me.

Doing good is not intended to be an event. True goodness should be a way of life… just as it was with Jesus. My prayer is that God’s goodness will continually flow through my life so that I will consistently – and habitually – go about doing good to others.

For goodness sake…

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Kindness & Kids…

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Where does kindness start?

I think it starts with kids. After all, the kindest adults are often the ones who were the kindest children. Or, at the very least, who were taught the principles of kindness as a child.

As with most things, kindness is best learned from the beginning.

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Many parents are preoccupied with their children’s achievements, grades or happiness but how many place the same importance on whether their child is kind? If they had to choose between the attribute or the accomplishment, which would prevail?

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One cold and snowy winter day when my son was attending university, he noticed an elderly woman struggling to get to the bus stop as the bus approached. He cried as he recounted how she would have been able to catch the bus if he had only flagged it down.

That was a proud moment as a parent… to see how it broke the heart of my child to know he had missed an opportunity to extend kindness to someone who had especially needed it.

“You will never have a completely bad day if you show kindness at least once.” Greg Henry Quinn

While I am extremely proud of my son and all that he has accomplished, I am proudest of who he is as a person. All the accomplishments in the world can’t make up for lack of character.

Cultivating kindness in our children is an investment that will always pay off.

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Need some ideas?

  • Make extending kindness toward others a priority for your child. Help them understand the importance of being kind to everyone, and hold them accountable.
  • Create opportunities for your child to show kindness. Have them participate in the regular care of a pet. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a fish or a hamster. Taking care of another living thing encourages kids to think outside of themselves.
  • Expand your child’s range of influence. Volunteer as a family. Fill a shoebox together at Christmastime for a needy child. Suggest your child make a card to cheer up a sick friend.
  • Be your child’s role model and mentor. Kids learn kindness by watching the example of adults they look up to. As a parent, you hold a position of particular influence. There are so many teachable moments in your child’s life… take advantage of them.
  • Read your child a story from the Bible about kindness, such as the one about the Good Samaritan. Ask thought provoking questions like, “If a mean kid got hurt, would you laugh and say, ‘It serves him right!’ or would you stop and help”? or “Has there ever been a time when you’ve avoided helping someone? What would you do differently next time?”

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It’s far easier to teach kindness to a child than it is to unteach unkindness to a teenager or to an adult.

The Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go and that when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Notice that it says ‘train up‘. Train up from a young age. Train up when your child doesn’t understand kindness. Train up when your child doesn’t feel like being kind.

The practice of extending kindness to others works to soften our hearts and change us, and the same is true for kids. You can’t routinely go out of your way to be kind to others, and not have it change you in fundamental ways. Even if you’re only going through the motions, the day will come when you realize that you do, in fact, genuinely care.

No matter what your age is, kindness matters.

I kid you not…

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Have patience…

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Patience is foundational to navigating life. But, patience doesn’t come easily to most of us, perhaps because it gets tested so many times in any given day.
Last week, I was driving in the middle of three lanes of northbound traffic during rush hour traffic through an intersection where they’re constructing the first diverging diamond interchange in Canada. As I started to pass under the recently laid spans of the bridge deck, a heavy piece of bolted metal dropped onto the hood of my car, leaving distinct indentations and damage to the paint.
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Two days later, we took our 21 month old British bulldog on a rare drive only to have him pee on the seat between us shortly after we had stopped to give him an outdoor pee break.
Have patience…
The day after that, I wrote an entire blog post that disappeared forever just as I was about to publish it (even though I had saved it numerous times throughout the process).
Have patience…
A couple of days after that, life threw me an unexpected – and unpleasant – curveball that I didn’t see coming, and that I’m continuing to have to deal with.
Have patience…
Several months ago, I had received a recall notice in the mail for my car, which I took to the dealership only to discover that the notice was for my last Nissan vehicle. The one I had traded in 3 1/2 years earlier. I phoned Nissan Canada to have the error corrected, and then promptly forgot about it until today, when I received a second recall notice in the mail for the same vehicle.
Have patience…
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I did reasonably well with 4 of the 5 instances I’ve described above but I assure you that’s not always the case. Patience is something I grapple with circumstance by circumstance, and I’m reasonably certain I’m not the only one.
Just this past week in the news… Justin Bieber got decked after punching a guy in the face in Cleveland. Twin sisters got in a physical altercation while driving in Maui, and one lost her life when the car subsequently plunged off a cliff. A disagreement in a Costco parking lot in Toronto turned into a brawl between two middle aged couples, prompting one news source to say that we’re living in an age of rage.
This is what the Bible has to say about patience…
“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” Proverbs 14:29
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32
It’s easy to be impatient and hard to be patient. But patience is worth it. Impatient people are rarely happy people and usually not that fun to be around, not to mention that others tend to notice when you do things that go against the tide of human nature.
Sometimes you even get featured on Oprah.
But, God always notices even if no one else does.
My goal, my prayer, and my hope is that I will get patience right far more often than I don’t. That the times I demonstrate patience will point others to the One who is able to do in me exceedingly abundantly above all I could ever ask or think.
The patience of Job?
I’m aiming for the patience of Joy
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Perfect peace…

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Peace is an interesting topic because many people want it, few have it, and most don’t know how to get it or keep it.

Peace has been around since the beginning of time, starting in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve never had a single argument, no one was at war, and even the animals all got along. Peace never crossed their minds because they didn’t know a time where they didn’t have it. For one brief time in history, there was peace.

Perfect peace.

But, then sin entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and mankind has struggled to keep a grasp on peace ever since, starting when Cain murdered his brother Abel, and quite possibly when Adam and Eve had an argument or two over whose fault it was that God had banished them from the Garden of Eden.

One of the earliest words signifying peace was the Hebrew word ‘shalom’. To this day, it’s spoken by many Jewish people around the world, and even by many non-Jewish people. It’s often used interchangeably with ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’, which reminds me of John 14:27 when Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

Shalom.

At the church we regularly attend, after the praise and worship part of each service, it’s customary to shake hands with those around you and speak the blessing, “May the peace of Christ be with you.” To which the reply is, “And also with you.”

I confess it felt weird to do that the first one hundred times or so but I’ve come to appreciate that it’s one of the nicest things we can say to each other. There’s power in speaking peace into someone else’s life, as well as having peace spoken into your own life.

Words aren’t the only way peace is conveyed. For centuries, the dove has been a universal symbol of peace, as has been the olive branch. And, in 1958, a British designer and artist, by the name of Gerald Holtom, designed an actual peace symbol.

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Peace must be important to our well being for there to be so many different ways to communicate it. After all, consider that wars rage, terrorists terrorize, people feud, families divide, and it can be easier to hate than to love. Some people are even at war with themselves, as evidenced by self-harming behaviours and self-hatred.

You don’t have to look very far to find people needing peace.

Peace is elusive but the peace from Christ is perfect. Isaiah 26:3 puts it this way:

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.”

Sounds straightforward, eh? Well, in practice, we’re imperfect people trying to perfectly trust God, and that affects our peace. Oh, we can have moments of peace… and maybe even stretches of peace… but then something happens to cause inner turmoil or external turmoil in our lives, and our peace goes out the window, just like that.

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It’s like riding a bike. It’s easiest to ride on level plain, with no obstacles in sight. But, add some rough terrain, a few obstacles, and a couple of steep hills, and it’s another story entirely. You find yourself having to stand up to pedal or maybe you have to get off your bike and start pushing. Sometimes you need someone to come alongside you… either to help push or simply to encourage you.

Someone to help you bear your load.

“Two people are better than one,
    because they get more done by working together.
If one falls down,
    the other can help him up.
But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls,
    because no one is there to help.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

But, then there are the sweet moments when you find yourself at the top of a hill. The bigger the hill, the better. And you can just soar to the bottom without having to hardly touch the pedals.

It’s in those moments when you can just enjoy the ride, and revel in the joy of the journey.

Ahhhh… perfect peace…

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Small Enough to Make a Difference

 

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This past week, Calgary experienced what has been dubbed as “Snowtember”. Three days of heavy, wet, snow that put 2014 into the record books. Power wiped out to thousands, dozens of traffic lights on the blink, numerous closures and collisions, and “Treemagedon”. An abundance of leaves still on the trees plus a large amount of snow combined to cause approximately 2,000 trees to collapse onto roads, power lines, and vehicles, and thousands more to fall on private property. Countless other trees lost branches that still litter driveways, roadways, pathways, and sidewalks.

Last night, I went for a long walk to enjoy the beginning of the gradual transition back to seasonal weather. As I walked, I couldn’t help but survey the “Treemagedon” damage because it was literally everywhere. But, what I found most surprising was that the majority of smaller and more delicate trees survived virtually unscathed while the larger and seemingly hardier trees were the ones that tended to suffer damage, many irreparably so. Which was strange because, after all, it’s the mighty who stand and the weak who fall.

Right???

Well, just ask David and Goliath about that.

Goliath was a giant… approximately 10 feet tall. Huge by anyone’s standards. To make matters worse, he was a nasty giant.

He was so cocky that, after taunting the Israelites twice a day for forty days, he challenged them to send out a worthy opponent to square off against him once and for all. The stakes were high… if the Israelites lost, they would become subjects of the Philistines (also a nasty bunch…). Typically, matters of that nature were settled by a full scale battle, not one man against another. So, to challenge the Israelites in that way, I think Goliath was convinced he was invincible. I also think he just wanted to show off. He knew that any opponent would be very small by Goliath standards.

Well, the opponent who stepped forward to accept the challenge was small. In fact, little more than a boy, according to the Bible. So, I’m guessing the Israelites must have been despairing at that point, since the pending duel was looking like it would be a case of no contest. But, appearances can be deceiving, and they certainly were this time.

David cast off the armour that the king tried to put on him because it wasn’t familiar to him. It’s interesting that, in contrast, Goliath was decked out in armour from head to toe. Ten feet tall and you need full armour??? Seems like a case of overkill to me (no pun intended…).

But, David didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t let fear of his opponent turn him into someone he wasn’t. Staying true to his shepherd roots, he stepped forward for battle, not with a sword, but with a slingshot and five little stones. The Israelites must have really been sweating by then!

Just five little stones. But, four of them proved to be unnecessary.

Predictably, Goliath made the first move but David courageously responded by not just running to the battle line but by running quickly (!) to the battle line to meet him.

And then it happened.

David slung the first and only stone, and the giant came tumbling down. Dead before he hit the ground.

Oh, how the mighty fell.

Appearances can be deceiving… that statement bears repeating. It’s often a storm or other adversity that separates the oak from the seedling. We naturally assume that the oak will prevail but size and outward appearances are no guarantee of strength or success.

History is full of examples where the underdog prevailed. Often for reasons as inexplicable as the smaller, delicate trees surviving what the bigger, hardier trees did not.

I’m reminded yet again that it’s what’s inside that matters most. David had character, courage, persistence, and humility. He was a small boy with unwavering faith in a God who was way bigger than the giant in his life. A God who is way bigger than the giants in our lives.

The challenge is often given for us to dare to be a Daniel (good advice, btw) but I would also throw out the challenge to dare to be a David.

Be small but mighty. Go and slay a few giants.

To quote an African proverb… “if you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito”.

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