Friday, August 24, 2012

Look at the Doors in Your Home

During the Middle Ages, merchant and craft guilds sprang up across Europe. They became an important part of medieval life because a man could attain a higher social status if he belonged to a guild. The English word “guild,” first used sometime in the fourteenth century, meant “payment, tribute, or compensation.” The merchant or craft guilds in towns and cities held exclusive rights to do business in their communities. As they monopolized commerce, they often took over the governance of the same townships.

            A guild from that era caught my attention because the artistry continues to influence us today. The Woodcraftsmen’s Guild in England took as their motto the words of Christ, “I am the door” (John 10:9). These carpenters followed the governing practices of other guilds, and apprentices began working with woods as young teenagers, serving five to nine years. At this training stage, the teens remained single and did not receive pay (only room and board). Those who honed their skills could advance to the next level of “journeyman,” with that title came the freedom to marry.

            A journeyman received pay for his labor, and during this stage of time, work on a masterpiece to present to the top artisans in the guild. The masterpiece could show special skills and expertise, and if judged superior could possibly make the journeyman eligible to become a “master.” If he achieved the status of “master,” he could open his own shop and begin to train apprentices.

            Many craft guilds existed: candle makers, bakers, apothecaries, masons, cloth makers, tanners, and cobblers. However, the one I’m fascinated with is the carpenter guild because you may have a product in your home that still reflects their purpose, work, and motto. That product is a door, and it could become an ever-present reminder of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the door.”

            If you have a four-paneled door or even a six-paneled door, look at it closely, most have the design of a cross in relief. The cross design in your door is not an accident. The Woodcraftsmen Guild chose to include the sign of the cross in each door. The beautiful pattern has stood the test of time, and its use continues today, pleasing to the eyes.

            The lyrics of “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” includes the phrase “the cross before to guide me.” The hymn and that lyric first came to my attention because of the group L’Angelus (, who performed Cajun music at the Catfish Festival in Conroe, Texas. My friend Eddie later gave me a CD of their hymns. That specific hymn quickly became a favorite because the lyrics mirror those of Psalm 23. You may recall hearing this Irish melody hymn at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in Westminster Abbey, London, 1997.

      That most familiar psalm of David’s says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” A parallel verse in the hymn of consideration says, “In death’s dark vale I fear no ill With Thee, dear Lord, beside me; Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.”

      Another verse depicts Jesus as Shepherd, “Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love He sought me, And on His shoulder gently laid, And home, rejoicing, brought me.” Often in childhood, I saw the picture of Jesus with a lamb across his shoulders, and I know it had early influence over my thinking, long before I could read.

      When I studied the Bible in later life, I discovered how accurately that picture portrays the Christ. I saw further evidence of that care in additional scriptures and especially in the tender care experienced in life. We’ve all had times when our wobbly lamb legs will not hold up the weight of life. That’s when, bigger than life itself, more powerful than any natural force on earth, the Savior Shepherd bends to scoop us up, taking our burden upon his shoulders, similar to how he carried his own cross for our sakes. This week, watch for the cross symbol in doors, and allow them to remind you, “Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.”

      Hunger for Humility (Week 34) “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"We're all bright in spots"

When Francis was a child, she made a comment about a special needs child. Overhearing her conversation, her dad told her not to look down upon anyone whose life or circumstances caused them personal pain. However, for her preacher dad, the verbal teaching wasn’t enough. He put legs on his lesson.

            He told his daughter that he wanted her to go for a ride with him. On the road, he told her about his childhood friend, a girl, who made a habit of making fun of others. Soon, they arrived at the “girl’s” home, who was now an adult with a family of her own. The minister knocked on the door, and his friend from childhood was delighted to see him. It seems he made regular visits to encourage this caregiving mom. After going inside, the minister introduced his daughter Francis and asked about the wellbeing of the woman’s family.

            He specifically asked about a daughter named Teresa. The mother replied that all was well, and continued, “Teresa’s about the same. Do you want to say hello?”

            The minister replied yes and led little Francis into a room where twenty-one-year-old Teresa lay in a bed – her body held captive by her mind, not advanced beyond that of a two-year-old child.

            Recently, the grandmother-aged Francis related the story to me saying, “I’ve never forgotten the power of that experience.” If her dad had only verbally chastised her for making fun of someone, the instructions might have faded, but he wanted to teach a lasting lesson and he succeeded.

            This week’s humility lesson, based on Jeremy Taylor’s rule thirteen encourages believers to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).  Taylor’s  (1613-1667) rule thirteen in the language of his day: “Suffer others to be praised in thy presence, and entertain their good and glory with delight; but at no hand disparage them, or lessen the report, or make an objection; and think not the advancement of thy brother is a lessening of thy worth.”

            Let’s say that in Texanese: Make a habit of praising others, not finding fault. Don’t subtract from that praise by pointing out some fault of the person’s being. When you hear a good report about someone else, don’t think poorly of yourself because you don’t have similar or equal gifts or honors.

            I first discovered Taylor’s rules in Randy Harris’ book, “Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-Time Monk.” Harris furthers understanding of rule thirteen saying, “If we have a moment of deep and sudden honesty. . . Taylor catches us here.” He continues, “We all have had a moment when we heard about somebody’s failure and everything in you said, ‘Yes!’” Harris further says, “Or we’ve had a moment when we heard about somebody’s success and everything in us says, ‘Too bad.’”

            For me, the rule indicates looking for a genuine quality in a person and encouraging them by noticing their gift. Too many people live in a negative atmosphere. Awful things happen to moral people. Our minds accuse us of missteps. Haughty people delight in pointing out the faults of others. Family members point out mistakes and rarely overlook minor offenses. People sorely lack someone who will step up and extend a gentle kindness or congratulate them on an accomplishment.

            After all, everyone has disabilities. We’re all flawed. No one is perfect. Our inadequacies could have crippled us for life, but most of us by the grace of God had good souls come along and nurture our graces. I spent a few days working with Francis, and I saw in her a resolute spirit of encouraging others to make good choices. Francis is a tough-love woman with an endearing, fun-loving spirit.

            This week, as we all work toward becoming more humble people, look for the good you see in others, and choose to praise them. You may have to look a long time at the worse among us, but you’ll find something to praise. As my husband, David, fondly says, “We’re all bright in spots.”

            Hunger for Humility (week 33): “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:2 ESV)

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments here or at       

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jezebel, "A Boy Named Sue," and Jesus

“Jezebel to the front registers, please.” Multiple customers awaited checkout at the department store when I heard that announcement. My first thought after hearing her summoned: “Why would parents name their child Jezebel?"

            Queen Jezebel mentioned in scripture was an extremely over-the-top malicious woman. If Satan had a wife, she’d probably resemble this royal matron of the Bible. Because of the early evil associated with that name, I wondered why anyone would christen a newborn baby girl with that moniker. After pondering on the trials of receiving an infamous name, I thought why not redeem the name of a queen gone bad. Why not allow something good to rise from the ashes of evil.  

            All of a sudden, I admired the modern Jezebel for not insisting on a name change once she reached legal age. Maybe this current Jezebel’s parents hoped that she’d overcome any negatives from bearing the notorious name. Could Jezebel have been the name of a loving aunt, who had already added virtue to the name?

            That day as I walked to my car, I remembered the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.” He first performed it to a prison audience, the song more recitation than actual singing. Out of all of Cash’s recordings, “A Boy Named Sue” remained his biggest hit, because all have challenges from setbacks.

            Another name I never heard as a given name is “Friend.” Our trucking company sends paperwork through a Beaumont regional office each year. Generally, I mail information and money for apportioned tags, and don’t speak on the phone to office personnel. However, the few times I phoned to ask questions, a female clerk spoke with me and asked for additional information to be mailed. She instructed me to write, “Attention: Friend” on the envelope. I reasoned it was a code word.  

            One year, due to a looming deadline, I drove the paperwork to Beaumont, and I met Friend, her name plaque on her desk followed by her last name. Thrilled by her unique name, I was curious. I asked how she came by her name, and she said that “Friend” was her grandmother’s name. The clerk lived up to her ancestry through her good manners and kind help.

            A teacher matching names and faces in her new class of first-graders, asked one little boy, “What’s your name?”


            “Not Jule,” she said. “You shouldn’t use nicknames; I see your name is Julius.” Turning to the next boy, she asked him his name.

            “Billious,” he answered.

            You may have a name you love, tolerate, or despise, but the name itself doesn’t define you, no matter the name’s past history of good or bad. Your personality, nature, and behavior create your make-up. Moses the most humble man on the face of the earth grew into his title somewhere along his 120-year life. Others share Jesus’ name, but only our Savior has innate humility. Although superior, his humility allowed him to give up the sanctuary of heaven to live among us, demonstrating the fullness of God’s love.

            If asked to identify your main characteristic, what would a friend say? Would he or she say humility? As I thought through that question and considered my character, I had to take a deep sobering breath. Humble living takes hours of effort and a plentiful diet of humble pie.   

            Our names do not describe us. Our character does that. The little boy Sam Houston in the television series “Christy” called his given name his front name. This week’s challenge to all – seek to live humbly – give your front name a good reputation.     

            Hunger for Humility (32): “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” (Philippians 2:3)


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Uprooting Bitterness

Yellow bitter weeds now bloom in pastures. Transplanted from Europe, they thrive in much of the United States. Because of an unpleasant aroma and taste, cows usually don’t nibble on the plants. However, if a cow has nothing else to eat and consumes the weed, her milk has a rank taste.

            One resource said insects have disagreeable reactions within 30 seconds after ingesting the noxious weeds. Toxic to sheep, farmers try to eliminate it from pastures. By experience or instinct, animals and insects learn to avoid the harmful wild plant. 

            People can also have unpleasant experiences with “bitter weed” friends. Although blessed, these close acquaintances choose to look at what goes wrong instead of counting blessings. To them, something is wrong with almost everything, so they whine, groan, and fault find, carping through morning, noon, and night. For them, noticing the good things in life is rare as an eclipse.

            After spending one hour with such a person, my attitude can warp and worsen too. Occasionally, I borrow their dark sunglasses, and the world gets gloomier. Unfortunately, bitterness is an attitude that roots easily and multiplies rapidly.

            Commercial herbicides will rid weeds from a pasture, but how does a spirit get rid of bitterness? Small irritants and larger evils occur in life, so Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians telling them how to respond as children of light: 

            Paul’s said to put off your old self. Be made new in the attitude of your minds. Who helps us transform our minds? God does. He gives us new eyes to see what is beautiful and to practice thanksgiving in two ways: aloud and inwardly. Paul tells Christians don’t pillow your heads with anger in your hearts, because the bitterness bedbugs damage at such times. Before the sun sets or the moon rises, Paul said to be kind, compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (paraphrase of Ephesians 4:20-32). 

            When bitterness settles in a soul, the devil can use that fissure to toss the tiniest seeds of other evils into that bedding, providing a marshy place where ills multiply. During a summer drought, the foundation to our house moved and cracked. Because the foundation weakened, other cracks appeared in sheetrock walls. Through all those cracks creepy-crawlies walked right in to make my home their home. 

            One day, I glimpsed a small lizard darting around the legs of the breakfast table. My grandchildren squealed as they watched me pest patrol and control. On hands and knees, with an empty plastic container and lid, I made several of my best lizard-catching moves for a capture. We placed the small reptile outdoors, the same place bitterness belongs – outside the human heart.  

Bitterness is really a pride issue: Why me? What have I done to deserve this? Why do bad things happen in my life? I deserve better. I don’t deserve to be ill or have trouble in my family. A wise person said, “Why not me? I’m no better than anyone else.”    To weed out disturbing bitterness, practice daily thanksgiving. Keep a piece of paper handy and jot down blessings as you encounter them. As your mind and heart move to different good scenes of the past and present, amazingly, light will crowd out the dark bitter spirit.

In a concentration camp where bitterness could have soared off the charts, Corrie ten Boon and her sister were thankful for lice infested barracks. Because of those pests, the male guards didn’t molest the already traumatized women. Look for the good in every pasture of bad times. Be on guard. Let bitterness reside only in dictionaries, not on the pages of souls.

Hunger for Humility (31):Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31).