Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Accept Correction with Humility

            If practiced, Jeremy Taylor’s third rule for living humbly will help one avoid becoming a hypocrite.  Taylor’s (1613-1667) third rule in the language of that day: “Whatsoever evil thou sayest of thyself, be content that others should think to be true.” He explained a bit further by saying “But he that calls himself intemperate, foolish, lustful, and is angry when his neighbours call him so, is both a false and a proud person.” My interpretation: A humble person will recognize their own failings and will not be angry with others when they also recognize the same frailties.

            No one likes to have their flaws pointed out by others. Even when a friend or enemy is “spot on” in their assessment, it doesn’t make it any easier to hear that one hasn’t lived up to their own expectations or others’.

            Mark Hayter, The Courier columnist, has written about the Parkers before. The Parkers were mutual friends of ours. Grandmother-aged Ruby Parker was among a group of younger wives as we spoke of how a woman can sense a mood shift in her husband. Ruby told us that when she saw Roger in a pensive mood, she made a practice of recalling the events of the day to see if she might have offended him through her words or actions. If she thought of an offense of hers, she simply asked Roger for forgiveness. If she couldn’t think of anything, she gently asked Roger why he was quiet. Sometimes, he was just tired. Whatever way he answered, because Ruby opened herself to hear how she might have failed, she kept dialogue open between husband and wife. I’ve always remembered Ruby’s example of humble living. 

            Sometimes, when a spouse or friend or even an enemy points out a flaw, we can show we accept their honest critique by using humor. Humor extends good nature to the one courageous enough to talk to us about our failings. A Yogi Berra story illustrate this: When driving to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Pennsylvania, with his wife Carmen and his three sons, Larry, Tim, and Dale, Yogi got lost. His wife Carmen, in Yogi’s words, “was giving me a hard time.”

            Yogi finally said, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.” Even though humor softens tense moments in relationships, one can assure the person pointing out the fault that the topic will get serious consideration.

            As part of my study on humility, I’m reading Andrew Murray’s “Humility, The Beauty of Holiness.” Murray (1828-1917, with 240 books to his credit), wrote, “I feel deeply that we have very little conception of what the Church suffers from the lack of this divine humility – the nothingness that makes room for God to prove His power.” I suspect that even after a year of focusing on humility in this column we will have only nibbled at the corners of humility.

            This next suggestion is sort of like the person who said, “Don’t pray for patience.” They found that when they asked God for it, a hardship came along as the teacher. I want to encourage you to watch for criticism that comes your way this week, and instead of bristling like a cat, let those spine hairs down, and simply say, “I’ll seriously consider what you’ve advised.” In sincerity, you can even be more generous and say, “Thank you.” When you leave their presence, do just what you said. Consider the advice. Don’t fume. Don’t tell others about the corrective conversation.

            I hope we all learn lessons this week, but you know what that means – that we’ll all receive correction. So, if your neighbor, as Jeremy Taylor said, calls you a fool, your humorous “response” could be, “Been there. Done that.” 

            To keep us uplifted on this journey, consider Elizabeth Harrell’s six benefits of seeking humility, mentioned in an article at and shortened here for you: (1) Humble people tend to respond rather than “react” to challenging situations. (2) When we humbly serve others, we reduce the focus on our own problems. (3) People feel comfortable around a humble person. (4) Practicing humility opens the door to wisdom because humble people listen more than they speak. (5) People trust you when they recognize your genuine interest in them, and that your goal is not to promote self. (6) Humble leadership creates loyalty when others see you rejoice at their successes.

            Hunger for Humility (7): “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God” (Philippians 2:15 MSG).

 Accessed February 16, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tumbling Weeds

            On a pleasure trip in our pickup truck to the flat side of Texas, I became fascinated with tumbleweeds. Intrigued, I asked my husband, David, if we could take a load of tumbleweeds home. Earlier, a friend mentioned that during a very lean year in West Texas, they decorated scrawny tumbleweed for Christmas. Minus the poverty, a tumbleweed Christmas sounded like fun.

            If I remember correctly, Dave balked just a little about my suggested cargo. After all, he would drive the load through miles of curious onlookers, who would most certainly wonder about our worthless load of weeds.

            If you’ve ever run across tumbleweed, literally, you know to steer away from future run-ins.  If a rambling weed moves across the road near a low-slung sports car, depending on the angle of assault, they can scratch paint, damage the under carriage, or screech across hoods. They even tangle in moving parts and break air hoses underneath semi-trucks.  

            On that day when I made my bizarre request, Dave said yes, as he kindly caved to my insane desire. We harvested tumbleweeds near a roadside where a fence had corralled a good number of the cumbersome bushes. A few ranchers and locals slowed their vehicles, shaking their heads in disbelief as we reaped tumbleweeds.

            The “Seattle Times” in 2001, reported on tumbleweeds whose taproots absorbed radiation on the Hanover Nuclear Reservation, contaminating the plant. On a search and destroy mission, crews were sent out to test for “glowing” tumbleweeds. Those weeds could spread what they had absorbed.


            The Prairie Tumbleweed Farm in Kansas has turned the Russian thistle, which arrived here in imported grain years ago, into a booming business. Some tumbleweed grow as tall as a house and are sold around the world as props in western movies, theme parks, country weddings, businesses, and homes. These tumbleweeds became useful again when guided to a good purpose.

            “Tumbleweed” doesn’t describe a specific plant but a habit of plants that separate from their root nutrients and then keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. When plants leave the soil, they lose their source of livelihood, become hollow, and then whiffs and puffs of ground air blow them about. I couldn’t think of a creative way to use all my tumbleweeds, so we burned them with the fall leaves on a damp, tranquil day.

            As I’ve pondered, studied, and prayed about humility over the past six weeks, I’m getting a clearer picture of virtues increasing when anchored in humble thinking.  Even though humility is among the seven virtues, many think that it remains the foundation of all others. “True humility -- the basis of the Christian system -- is the low but deep and firm foundation of all virtues,” says Edmond Burke.
            The virtue kindness happens when the giver puts aside personal needs. The virtue charity grows out of “Christ in you” (Colossians 3:27). The virtue diligence progresses when one doesn’t mind providing manual labor or prestigious labor, the lowliness or status not making any difference.

            Many people, tap-rooted in contamination, formed alliances against God in Psalmist Asaph’s day, and he asked, “Make them like tumbleweed, O my God” (83:13). When people withdraw from God, they become brittle and hollow, and blown about by whims, they damage others. 

            I’ve seen that my thoughts are often like the roving tumbleweed, flitting here and there, one minute I’m on a good path to behaving humbly, and the very next minute, (literally), my pride-filled ego rises and yanks on the taproot, trying to urge me out of God’s will. It’s a struggle, but worth the winning. This week, may God furnish you with nutrient-filled soul-soil as you practice humility. 

            Hunger for Humility (6): “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop -- a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:8 NLT)

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments or ideas at writecat at consolidated dot net

Friday, February 03, 2012

Humility Pretense

“Hang down your head, Tom Dooley, poor boy, you’re bound to die.” Those lyrics came from a folk song made popular by the Kingston Trio in 1958, written about the events surrounding the 1866 murder of Laura Foster, in Wilkes County, North Carolina.

            The convicted murderer’s original spelling of his name was Tom Dula (the last “a” was often pronounced like a “y” by Appalachians, thus the spelling change). Some believe he was protecting a former girlfriend, thought to have murdered his current sweetheart, Laura. Standing on the gallows before his hanging, he reportedly said, “Gentlemen, see these hands, they never harmed a hair on that girl’s head.”

            Today, a wrongdoer, during an arrest, often ducks his or her head to avoid having their face shown by a television camera. The turning away from a camera or lowering of the chin could be from real remorse or rebellion because of their capture. Let’s consider another way one lowers their head. Jeremy Taylor’s (1613-1667) second rule about living humbly mentions that the outward appearance and posture doesn’t necessarily show humility. Following is the rule in the language of the 1600s:

            “Humility consists not in the railing against thyself, or wearing mean clothes, or going softly or submissively; but in hearty and real evil or mean opinion of thyself.” The rest of the rule, “Believe thyself an unworthy person heartily, as thou believest thyself to be hungry, or poor, or sick, when thou art so.” I’m uneducated in language of that era, and I had to read the rule several times and research before attempting an explanation.

            Taylor tells us that the outward show of humility isn’t true humility. Only when one acknowledges unworthiness does one move toward humility. The apostle Paul captured the essence of rule number two when he said, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23).

            Paul didn’t pull any punches. We all sin. Taylor said we don’t wear our humility. We live our humility. We don’t “act” humble. We embrace humility by recognizing our frailties and leaning on Jesus to help us be more like him. I’m never perfect at loving others, even on the days of my best behavior.  

            Humility involves the realization and acknowledgment that temptations to become jealous, prideful, selfish, or entertain ungodly thoughts assault us daily. Far too often, I give into the temptations, but I don’t want the focus of this column to be on failures, I want us to center on our successes because of God’s help.

            Coach Jimmy Johnson revealed to “The New York Times” what he said to the Dallas Cowboys before they took the field in 1993 Super Bowl. He told his players if he laid a two by four on the locker room floor and asked each of them to walk the length, that each player could do that because they would focus on the length of the board. However, if he placed that same board between the tenth floors of skyscrapers very few could walk the length because they would focus on falling. He asked his team to focus on each play of the game as if it were a good practice session. The Cowboys won 52-7.

            This week, instead of humility pretense, focus on each interaction with others. When you present yourself, it’s possible for the outward person and inner person to be very different. We can shake someone’s hand and seem friendly while our mind conjures up criticisms of the other person. Ask God to make you aware of when the two are mismatched. The very best thing occurs when humble behavior and humble thought accompany each other.

            Hunger for Humility (5): “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.” (Psalm 25:8-9)

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments or ideas at writecat at consolidated dot net