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Today, in many parts of Canada, is Family Day. It is a holiday that was established in 1999 in Alberta, 2007 in Saskatchewan, 2008 in Ontario, and will begin in British Columbia in 2013. Family Day is also celebrated at various other times in a few other countries and American states. In Canada, as holidays go, it’s a pretty recent addition to the list. I can understand why people thought it would be a good idea to have a day off in February; most years it feels like the longest month even though it’s the shortest. What I can’t understand is why they chose to call it Family Day. Holidays usually have a reason to celebrate, something to commemorate, and if not they are called civic or bank holidays. Why is this one called Family Day? Is it really necessary for the government to institute a day to spend with our families? Is it that unlikely that we would spend our time with them if the government didn’t make it sound like that was the purpose? Perhaps.

Family has certainly taken on different forms in recent decades. When people talk of traditional families, they are usually thinking of a mother, father and children. Maybe a family pet. That was pretty much the norm in the 1950s. These days, however, the combinations are much more varied. Depending on the make-up of your family, it may be more and more challenging to find time to spend together. As a teacher, I was faced with students from many different family situations. Some children had the attention that they needed, and some didn’t. Despite the changes in family dynamics, however, this problem has existed since the time of Solomon. In Proverbs 22:6 he advised parents to teach their children to live Godly lives, with the assurance that when they grew up they would remember what they had been taught. This is an activity that requires time and attention. And discipline. Children don’t naturally know right from wrong; they have to be taught it, and if it becomes part of their training when they are young, it will be part of their lives long after they leave home.

Children don’t forget how they’ve been brought up, but sometimes they choose to ignore it. Proverbs 22:6 is a principle, not a promise. Sometimes children choose to do things in a way that completely disregards what they have been taught, but that is a freedom that God has given to all of us. He has made known to us what is right, and we can choose whether we want to live by it or not. He gave parents the responsibility to teach those things to their children. If parents don’t instruct their children to do what is right, it will be much more difficult for them to figure it out later in life. If parents train their children to be godly, it is likely that the children will continue in that way for the rest of their lives. Even if they rebel for a time, they will know the way back to the right path.

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It has now been 14 months since I was hit in a motor vehicle accident, and I am still in pain every day. Although the pain is not as excruciating as it was at the beginning, I no longer have the strength or endurance to do the things that I used to do. I often find myself thinking that I just want to get better so that I can get my life back. But I also believe that God is trying to teach me something through this experience. I ask Him in my prayers, “What do you want me to learn from this?”, but in my heart that usually ends with “so I can get back to my life”.

My first thought about what God’s lesson for me might be was rest. It seemed to be a common theme in sermons I heard a few months after the accident and now in a book I am reading for my Bible study group. It is the answer that is most often suggested by my friends, and it is certainly something that God advocates. (Exodus 16:27-30, Exodus 34:21, Matthew 11:28) But God also advocates working, (John 5:17, John 9:4, James 2:22, Ephesians 4:11-12, Acts 18:3) and I had already started prioritizing where I put my energy, so I’m not convinced that rest is the answer. The second reason most people suggest is this blog. Perhaps God wanted me to write this blog, so He took away everything else I could do so that I would write it. That might sound good in theory, but the truth is that I had intended to start writing this blog on January 1, 2011 before the accident happened. I do believe God called me to do it, and I do hope that some day I will see that it has been of value to people, but God didn’t force me into it. I do it willingly, and I’ll leave the results up to Him. So what is the answer? I think I’ve finally figured out that my problem is pride.

Different people probably have different ideas of what pride looks like. Some may imagine someone who is arrogant and conceited and thinks he is better than anyone else around him. Others may imagine someone with great self-confidence, a person who knows that she can do what she needs to do. The second version doesn’t really sound that bad, does it? But as the popular, abbreviated version of Proverbs 16:18 tells us, pride goes before a fall. Pride is trusting in yourself alone. For me, it boils down to this—wanting to be self-sufficient. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone, and I certainly don’t want to be a burden to anyone. Currently I am both, and I really don’t like it! In the book, The Sacred Romance, Brent Curtis says, “Part of my smaller story has been to use my gifts as a teacher and thinker to win people’s admiration—to be someone’s hero.” I have a similar desire. I like to be appreciated. I like to hear people say Thank You. I find myself doing what I can for others, so that they will think that I have some value.

The truth is, that without the grace of God, I am nothing. All good gifts in this world come from Him, (James 1:16-17) including our abilities and good health. How much He chooses to give us is up to Him. We can work and strive and plan and pray, but unless He is willing to allow it, it will not happen. That is not to say that He does not allow us to go our own way, because He has given us free will, but I had been praying for months before the accident that I wanted to do whatever was His will for my life. That’s truly what I want, but the pride of being self-sufficient is obviously deeply ingrained, and needs to be eliminated first.

Have you ever heard the expression that the best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans? I have found in my life that many of the plans I have made have not really worked out as I thought they would. I’m not the only one.

The Apostle Paul had intended to persecute Christians, but his goal changed on the road to Damascus. (Acts 22:6-10) That was a sudden change of plan. Joseph’s brothers had intended to get rid of him by selling him to the Ishmaelites. They wanted to eliminate the competition for their father’s affection and having to listen to Joseph’s dream interpretations which I’m sure they found to be rather arrogant. (Genesis 37:5, Genesis 37:26-28) This change of plan took a little longer. It was many years later that the brothers became afraid of and then grateful to Joseph for saving their lives. The brothers had meant only harm for Joseph, but God had a plan to use their actions for good. (Genesis 45:5-8, Genesis 50:20)

I’ve known people who debate whether we truly have free will or whether our actions are predestined by an all-powerful, all-knowing God. I believe that we do have free will, but God also has a will, and He is sovereign; His plan will be accomplished. God gives us the opportunity to be a part of it, but we can choose whether we want to cooperate or not.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us that a person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps. We have the privilege and the responsibility to make our own decisions, but God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us, (Jeremiah 29:11) and in time He will work circumstances out the way He chooses. If our plans are aligned with His, we might not be frustrated by unexpected changes quite as often. If we commit our ways to Him, seek His will through prayer and Bible study, our plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)

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I realize that my last post was rather on the serious side. I also realize that in this life you need balance—not that we don’t need to deal with the serious stuff, but sometimes we need to have a little fun too. Studies have shown that laughter is good for your health. Just google “laughter is good for your health”, and you’ll see what I mean. This only confirms what the Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:22. A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. So, in an attempt to improve your health, I am going to share a couple of videos that I hope will cheer your heart.

The first one is especially for anyone who has ever wanted to become more fit.

The second is for anyone who is a mom or has a mom.

What does it mean to you when you give your word? When you tell someone—your spouse, your employer, a friend—that you will do something, do you do it? Faithfulness is about being reliable, trustworthy, and constant. It’s about being loyal, devoted, dedicated and true. It means that when you give your word you keep it. It means that you don’t betray another’s trust. You don’t go behind someone’s back to dishonor them or to gain your own advantage.

Proverbs 25:13 says that a faithful messenger is as refreshing to those who send him as the cold of snow is at harvest time. Be careful not to misinterpret this. This verse is not suggesting that there would be a blanket of snow on the ground at harvest time; this would only ruin the crops. But bringing in the crops in the Middle East at harvest time would have been hot, tiring labour. The cold of snow—in a drink of water, on a cold cloth for your forehead, or in a gentle breeze—would have been most welcome. In the same way, an employer who can trust in his messenger service, has no need to be concerned. That too would be refreshing.

One of the definitions of faithfulness is to be true to the original. There is no one more faithful than the Creator. Deuteronomy 7:7-9 assures us that God loves His people, not because of anything that we have done, but because He is faithful, and He loves us. He made a promise to the ancestors of Israel, and He was faithful to keep His promises. God has made promises to us too, and He is still faithful, for He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that faithfulness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. We can strive to be faithful, that’s a good goal, but the more we have the Holy Spirit, the more God’s faithfulness will shine through us.

How do you feel about practical jokes? I don’t like them. I’ve heard of people putting Nair in their boyfriend’s shampoo bottle, or putting glue on their baseball caps, things that can cause real harm and certainly real embarrassment. If each person insists on getting the better of the other, the jokes only escalate. Where do they end? Perhaps only when someone gets severely hurt.

A similar thing can happen with our words. People seem to think that it’s okay to insult, lie to or make fun of each other, as long as afterward they say that they were only kidding. This is such a common practice that in social media circles, all that is needed is "jk". Sometimes the one doing the joking makes the other feel like they are in the wrong, that they are boring and have no sense of humour. Proverbs 26:18-19 says that someone who deceives another, and then says that they are just kidding is like a madman who shoots flaming or deadly arrows. A madman shooting deadly arrows. That’s a pretty serious analogy. So much for just kidding.

Matthew Henry has said, “By lying and slandering in jest men learn themselves, and teach others, to lie and slander in earnest; and a false report, raised in mirth, may be spread in malice; besides, if a man may tell a lie to make himself merry, why not to make himself rich, and so truth quite perishes, and men teach their tongues to tell lies, Jeremiah 9:5. If men would consider that a lie comes from the devil, and brings to hell-fire, surely that would spoil the sport of it; it is casting arrows and death to themselves.” [Emphasis his.]

I think our society has come to the place where we don’t understand the value of truth or the power of our words. According to Proverbs 18:21, death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit. James tells us that our tongue will determine our direction just as a rudder steers a ship (James 3:4-5) and that what comes out of our mouths represents who we really are. (James 3:8-11)

Who are you really? Who do you want to be? Make sure that your tongue is leading you in the right direction.

Today's post is written by Rusty Wright.
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Laugh a Little: It's Good For Your Health

Had a good laugh recently? Need one?

Stressful days can invite comic relief. Doctors realize that laughter can enhance physical and mental health. Now it seems even looking forward to laughter can be good for you.

WebMD reports that Lee Berk, MD, a University of California Irvine medical professor, and his associates have for years investigated how moods affect immune systems and illness. They've found laughter has a role in fighting viruses, bacteria, cancer and heart disease.

Stress can hamper your immune system; a good chuckle can help. Berk found earlier that watching a one-hour humorous video reduced stress hormone secretion and helped the immune system counter viruses and bacteria.

But there's more: Berk now says the mere anticipation of laughing can help. He studied ten men, measured their stress signs, and told them that in about three days they would see a humorous video. In each man, spirits lifted before viewing the video.

Two days before the viewing, depression was down 51 percent, confusion 36 percent, anger 19 percent, fatigue 15 percent and tension 9 percent. Right after the viewing, depression and anger were both down 98 percent, fatigue 87 percent, confusion 75 percent and tension 61 percent.

Berk feels anticipating humor brightens life and affects health. He calls this influence the "biology of hope." Berk says, "Positive anticipation of humor starts the ball rolling in a sense, in which moods begin to change in ways that help the body fight illness. We believe this shows that even anticipation can be used to help patients recover from a wide range of disorders."

Moral: Planning humor can benefit your health. Watch a funny movie, spend time with humorous people. Tell your boss, professor, clergy or club chairperson to liven up their speeches a bit if they want healthy employees, students, or members. Put laugh-breaks on your calendar, since anticipation is part of the therapy.

A Jewish proverb observes, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." [Proverbs 17:22] Paul, a first-Century follower of Jesus, emphasized hope: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope. . ." [Romans 15:13] Those biblical writers have some good advice now and then, practical stuff for everyday life.

So, laugh more. You'll like it. And say, have you heard the one about. . .?
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

I decided years ago that people don’t compliment each other enough, so when I think something nice about someone, I like to tell them. This is very often greeted with, “Okay, what do you want?” It’s sad, but people don’t seem to trust someone who says something nice. Perhaps that’s a good thing, because that is also one of the tactics used by people who are trying to pressure you to do something or get something from you. That’s what the satraps (government officials) did to king Darius in Daniel 6, (March 28, 2011) which resulted in Daniel being thrown in the lion’s den and Darius spending the night in anguish and regret. It also resulted in the gruesome death of the flatterers and their families.

Proverbs 29:5 tells us that the flatterer spreads a net—sets a trap—for his steps. There is some ambiguity about whose steps the trap is set for, the one being flattered or the one doing the flattering. Perhaps it is both. In the story of Daniel, there were consequences for both the satraps and the king. The satraps set the trap for king Darius, but in the end, the consequences were much worse for themselves.

You need to be careful to discern whether or not someone is being honest with you, especially if you are in a position of authority over them. Employees, children, students, anyone who is in a subordinate position may not be completely honest with you, either out of fear, or because they are trying to further their own personal agenda. Likewise, you need to be vigilant that you are being honest with others. Any gain that comes from being dishonest with others will not last. The righteous will win in the end. (Proverbs 11:8, Proverbs 13:9)

There is a difference between compliments and flattery. Compliments are sincere and unselfish, while flattery is exaggerated, sometimes a complete lie, told with the intention of selfish gain. The flatterer is seeking a favour of some kind; he has only his own desires in mind. If the person is deceptive enough, it may be difficult to tell the difference, but a good clue would be what request is made thereafter. If they actually do want something from you, perhaps it is not really a compliment.

The tenth commandment is that you shall not covet. (Exodus 20:17) In Proverbs 23:17-18, the term used is envy. They mean the same thing. Don’t be jealous of what your neighbour has that you don’t. I’ve been guilty of this lately. I don’t envy any particular neighbour, or desire anything that was gained through inappropriate means as Proverbs 23:17 suggests, but I have certainly desired to have things be different than they are. I and my family have been going through a lot of strife lately, from car accidents that resulted in injury, unceasing pain and the hassle of replacing a vehicle with insufficient funds to family members with brain cancer and kidney transplant rejection and friends who are suffering from cancer or have lost loved ones. Everything just seems to be so hard lately, and I envy those who appear to have things more under control than I do. Of course, that is just my perception and possibly an illusion. I guess we all have our struggles.

The point of these two verses in Proverbs seems to be to trust in the Lord. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” We must trust God to be God and realize that although we don’t see the value in whatever hardship we’re enduring, He does. He knows the plans He has for you, and they are good plans. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I think the key is to control your thoughts. (Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:2, Philippians 4:8) Instead of focusing on how someone else is better off than you are, focus on what you can be thankful for. Focus on the hope you have for your future, and know that when we get to eternity in heaven there will be no more pain, no more sorrow and no more strife. (Revelation 21:4) We also need to focus on the character and promises of God. We know that He is a good and loving Father (Ephesians 2:4) who desires to give good gifts to His children. (Matthew 7:11) We know that even though all things are not good, all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) There is hope not only for peace and joy in eternity, but also for things to be better on the other side of this trying time.

Today, my American readers are remembering Martin Luther King Jr., a man who stood  for equality, peace and freedom.  It has become a tradition to honour Dr. King on this date by performing an act of service.  The website at http://mlkday.gov/ invites you to share your story of how you helped others or served your community today, and also “challenges us to make service a part of our lives – every day of the year”.   They would like you to continue to honour Dr. King, and celebrate the 25th anniversary of this holiday by pledging to perform 25 acts of service this year.  That averages out to just over two kindnesses per month.  It doesn’t sound like that much really, does it?  Unfortunately, when we get into our busy routines and hectic schedules, we tend to focus only on our own desires.  We want to work to meet our own goals, and we leave the downtrodden to fend for themselves.

Have I got good news for you!  Proverbs 28:27 tells us that those who give to the poor will be blessed.  It is a common theme in Proverbs and throughout the Bible to give to the poor, but here the command is stated with a blessing.  If we give we will not lack.  That means that if we ourselves aren’t very well off, giving will not impoverish us.  God will find a way to bless us and give to us.  I’ve often heard it said that you can’t outgive God.

Those who have much really have no excuses.  You have already been blessed, and would not suffer for giving some of your wealth away.  The blessing still applies to you though, for those who give generously will be generously rewarded.  (II Corinthians 9:6)  There is another side to this blessing though.  Those who don’t give, will not only not be blessed, but they will receive many curses.  That is quite a serious statement, one that should be given sincere consideration by each of us.

We are all God’s children, and He doesn’t want to see any of us suffer.  We need to care for our brothers and sisters and trust in our Heavenly Father to provide for our needs.  We who act as His hands and feet to bless others will ourselves be blessed.  What can you do to help someone today?