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Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Amish buggy from hot air balloon
Amish country photo taken from a hot air balloon!
Photo by Debra Zimmerman (Used by permission)

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"Living Better"
"A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15b).
Here in the USA we are accustomed to our mailboxes and newspapers being filled with ad fliers and we hear the blaring commercials on television that plead with us to buy more stuff. This increases during the holiday season and especially prior to this coming Friday when the retail industry hopes people will come off their Thanksgiving celebration with a shopping binge.  Some of the "Can't Resist" sales have now moved up from Friday to midnight on Thanksgiving.


Yesterday I received an ad flier from a prominent retailer here in America. It had a lot of neat looking stuff that Brooksyne and I found appealing. The subtitle on the ad was, "Save Money, Live Better."
Interesting the phraseology "Save Money" when they are really trying to get me and millions of others to spend money in their store. But I know what they mean, essentially claiming that I will "save" money by buying the item at their store rather than another retailer that costs more.  The true fact is, I will save a whole lot more money if I just stay home!  (I'm aware that some of our readers are retailers and this would not be helpful to you if we all did so.)
But I especially consider the phrase "Live Better." If better living is defined by having more stuff we certainly live better than ever before. Every single item on the front page of the sale flier was not even available 15 years ago. In fact as I looked all through the flier most of the stuff is new in my lifetime. Pity our poor ancestors who lived before this stuff was even available. I assume they just didn't get opportunities like us to "live better" by maxing out their charge cards like many Americans where consumer debt is at an all time high!   
Actually most reading this message are living pretty good as far as stuff.  But the bar of desire, then expectation, then "need" and finally entitlement just keeps raising. I drive through the "poorest" sections of Lancaster City and see rows of satellite dishes on the public housing units.
You may not live in a mansion as currently defined but relative to the masses in many parts of the world you're probably doing pretty good.  Just look at the photos coming out of Bangladesh. We live in a long period of peace and prosperity and yet this is one of the most dangerous times for spiritual health. 
Jesus said, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." We are so conditioned to equate the essence of the better life with more stuff or our "abundance of possessions."  Stuff can be an aspect of God's blessing but we all know it generally provides a hollow, short-lived satisfaction. We keep needing more and more to maintain and feed that satisfaction.  

Satisfaction, contentment, and thanksgiving are closely related in their word associations in the English language.  Robert Flatt puts it like this, "Thanksgiving like contentment is a learned attribute. The person who hasn't learned to be content will not be thankful, for he lives with the delusion that he deserves more or something better."

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Charles Spurgeon also addressed the need for contentment, "You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled." 

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, I know that contentment with godliness is of great benefit.  It brings about a lasting peace and grateful heart that only You can give.  Help me not to focus so much on the material possessions that I lose sight of that which is of vital importance.  May the character of my soul and the fruit of my actions be of much greater importance than the perishable goods that capture my attention.  I look to You for proper balance in the things You have blessed me with and the attitude in which I receive these good things from Your hands. 

Brooksyne's Note:  I recently read a touching story about a woman who had learned the secret of contentment.  She was a legally blind 92-year old woman who moved to a nursing home after her husband of seventy years had passed away.  She waited patiently in the lobby, and when her room was finally ready she maneuvered her walker to the elevator.  As she did so she the nurse's aid accompanied her and gave her a visual description of her tiny room.  "I love it," she stated with enthusiasm.  "But Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room yet."  She replied, "That doesn't have anything to do with it.  Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged, it's how I arrange my mind.  It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up.  I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do."

Amish children (Photo by Debra Zimmerman)
Today's photos were take by Debra Zimmerman, daughter of our friends Cerwin and Doris High. She has a layout and design business here in Lancaster County and had the opportunity to take photos from a hot air balloon over eastern Lancaster County's Amish country. She took this photo just as the balloon landed of some Amish children walking home from school. More photos are on Doris High's photoblog site.

Thanksgiving Resources

ThornsNew "Thankful For The Thorns" - A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thankgiving Table (webpage)

Most every year our Thanksgiving celebration is first and foremost the turkey and trimmings.  Lots of food with little meaningful conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! I realize that some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering.  But if it is possible I recommend sharing together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns" or the questionnaire we've provided in the link below.  Perhaps you could just use it as a discussion guide to provide stimulus for other's reflections.

CD label for "Stories of Great Hymns"New "Hymns of Hope" A project that has been in the works over several months is now completed.  Brooksyne has compiled eleven hymns that deal with the recurring theme of loss and ongoing trial and titled it "Hymns of Hope" based on Romans 12:12,  "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." Amber Martin plays the hymns on the keyboard and Lauren Gingrich accompanies her on six of the hymns with the viola. Tracks 12-22 play each hymn softly in the background while Brooksyne shares a personal devotional thought, the biographical setting of the hymn text, and an intercessory prayer. We recorded this in the very modest and limited computerized recording studio of Daily Encouragement so that we could make this ministry project available to all who are in need of such encouragement without huge overhead expense.  Thus we realize the audio quality is not what we've become accustomed to. You can go to this site to listen to the songs. You can download one song at a time if you find this to be of special blessing to you or know someone whose spirit might be lifted by listening to these meditative hymns. Here's a sample with a Thanksgiving theme: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" (Audio reading)

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading -
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

A Thanksgiving family exercise - We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.  (pdf)

A Day of Rest in Plimouth Colony - This is a summary of a chapter in the lives of the pilgrims that Brooksyne uses to teach about their Sunday worship.  (pdf)

Books used in Brooksyne's research on the Pilgrims:
Saints & Strangers  By Vision Video
Three Young Pilgrims  By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster

Suggested Music

"Praise To The Lord" (Audio)

"Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven" (Audio)

"Praise The Mighty Name Of Jesus" (Audio)

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness" (Audio)

Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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