October 22, 2010

Subdue the I

In God’s Little Devotional Book, published by Honor Books, Inc., there’s a story about two pairs of deer horns hanging on a wall in the 12th-century Bebenhausen Monastery in Germany. The horns are interlocked.

The horns suggest that two bucks were fighting over mating or territorial rights, and their antlers became so intertwined they could not be separated, and they died for their efforts.

The story reminded me of our politicians whose positions on so many issues are so entrenched that reconciliation and cooperation of any kind are not an option. Conceit, pride, vanity and arrogance lead the proponents on each side of almost any controversy to believe their way is the only way.

Nancy and I have been taking Tai Chi classes for about six months, and recently, our senior instructor wrote “Subdue the I” on the bulletin board. It occurs to me that our representatives in government at every level would serve the country better if they were taught this Tai Chi precept.

As I thought more about the meaning of that simple phrase, I also realized that when I lost patience or found fault with someone, in other words, when I failed to “subdue the I,” it created conflicts in my own life. In most cases, when I have lost my temper, it was because the “I” in me was amplified rather than subdued.

To “subdue the I” is to learn humility, and in the fourteenth chapter of Luke, Jesus ends his parable on the subject with these words for our politicians and all of us to remember:

“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

October 11, 2010

Closing the Door on Worries

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks the question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

The fact is that anxiety can reduce our life span considerably. It can cause ulcers, high blood pressure, strokes, asthma, angina, migraine headaches, indigestion, irritability, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, depression, diarrhea and a host of other symptoms.

Dr. William Osler, one of the most famous physicians of the 19th Century, was on an ocean liner during a drill when all the ship’s many compartments were sealed. If damage caused one compartment to leak, the watertight doors to other compartments would allow the ship to remain afloat. Osler suggests we learn to master our worries by sealing them in compartments.

“Touch a button and hear, at every level of your life, the iron doors shutting out the past - the dead yesterdays. Touch another and shut off, with a metal curtain, the future - the unborn tomorrows. Then you are safe - safe for today!”

I like Osler’s proposal for coping with worry and have used it often, but I also love to be reminded of God’s mercy and protection in the words of hymns of faith like Day by Day. Here are the words to the first verse of that great hymn:

Day by day, and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;

Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,

I've no cause for worry or for fear.

He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,

Gives unto each day what He deems best,

Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with peace and rest.