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Friday, December 27, 2013

My Word of 2014

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In 2013, I heard about the book My One Word, which encourages its readers to: "Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year." The word I chose to focus on for 2013 was SERVE. I thank and praise the Lord for providing my family and me many opportunities to serve others this past year. This is something which I hold dear to my heart and as such, will continue to offer myself to the Lord's leading in this area of my life.

When thinking about my word for 2014 there were two words that spoke to my heart, but of the two the one that stirred me the most was GENTLE(NESS).

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." 
Matthew 11:29

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness." 
Galatians 5:22

"The Lord's servant must be gentle towards all." 
2 Timothy 2:24

"The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 
1 Peter 3:4 

Before writing this post, I performed a Google search looking for an answer to the following question, "What does a gentle heart look like?" I was hoping to find a map, per se, something written that would give me a sense of direction on how to go about training my heart to be gentle. My thoughts were all jumbled together in my head; I know which parts of my life I need to incorporate more gentleness in, but I wasn't quite sure how to explain it in a post. In response to my question, I came across a document written in 1896 by J. R. Miller titled A Gentle Heart. (According to Wikipedia, J. R. Miller was a pastor and a popular Christian writer in the 1800s.)

Below I share some excerpts from his article. I believe Pastor Miller eloquently captured the stirrings of my own heart.
"Gentleness is a beautiful quality. It is essential to all true character. Nobody admires ungentleness in either man or woman. When a man is harsh, cold, unfeeling, unkind, and crude and rough in his manner—no one speaks of his fine disposition. When a woman is loud-voiced, dictatorial, petulant, given to speaking bitter words and doing unkindly things—no person is ever heard saying of her, "What a lovely disposition she has!" She may have many excellent qualities, and may do much good—but her ungentleness mars the beauty of her character."
"If any Christian, even the Christliest, would pray for a new adornment, an added grace of character—it may well be for gentleness. This is the crown of all loveliness, the Christliest of all Christly qualities."
"Gentleness being a divine quality is one which belongs to the true human character. We are taught to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect; if we would be like God—we must be gentle!"
"This world needs nothing more than it needs gentleness. All human hearts hunger for tenderness. We are made for love—not only to love, but to be loved. Harshness pains us. Ungentleness touches our sensitive spirits as frost touches the flowers. It stunts the growth of all lovely things."
"We naturally crave gentleness. It is like a genial summer to our life. Beneath its warm, nourishing influence beautiful things in us grow."
"Then there always are many people who have special need of tenderness. We cannot know what secret burdens many of those about us are carrying, what hidden griefs burn like fires in the hearts of those with whom we mingle in our common life. Not all grief wears the outward garb of mourning; sunny faces often times veil heavy hearts. Many people who make no audible appeal for sympathy yet crave tenderness—they certainly need it, though they ask it not—as they bow beneath their burden. There is no weakness in such a yearning. We remember how our Master himself longed for expressions of love when he was passing through his deepest experiences of suffering, and how bitterly he was disappointed when his friends failed him."
"We can never do amiss in showering gentleness. There is no day when it will be untimely; there is no place where it will not find welcome. It will harm no one—and it may save someone from despair. The touch of a child on a woman's hand, may save a life from self destruction." 
How many times do we find ourselves responding kindly to others yet show less gentleness to those who share our home? I admit that I show more patience in dealing with the imperfections of my friends than I do with my own family at times. This is something that the Holy Spirit has convicted me about on many occasions.
"There is need for the lesson of gentleness in homes. There love's sweetest flowers should bloom. There we should always carry our purest and best affections. No matter how heavy the burdens of the day have been, when we gather home at nightfall we should bring only cheer and gentleness. No one has any right to be ungentle in his own home. If he finds himself in such a mood he should go to his room—until it has vanished."
"The mother's life is not easy, however happy she may be. Her hours are long, and her load of care is never laid down. When one day's tasks are finished, and she seeks her pillow for rest, she knows that her eyes will open in the morning on another day full as the one that is gone. With children about her continually, tugging at her dress, climbing up on her knee, bringing their little hurts, their quarrels, their broken toys, their complaints, their thousand questions to her—and then with all the cares and toils that are hers, and with all the interruptions and annoyances of the busy days—it is no wonder if sometimes the strain is almost more than she can endure in quiet patience."
"Nevertheless, we should all try to learn the lesson of gentleness in our homes. It is the lesson that is needed to make the home-happiness a little like heaven! Home is meant to be a place to grow in. It is a school in which we should learn love in all its branches. It is not a place for selfishness or for self indulgence. It should never be a place where a man can work off his annoyances, after trying to keep polite and courteous to others, all the day. It is not a place for the opening of doors of heart and lips to let ugly tempers fly out at will. It is not a place where people can act as they feel, however unchristian their feelings may be, withdrawing the guards of self control, relaxing all restraints, and letting their worse tempers have sway."
"We should be gentle above all—to those we love the best. There is an inner circle of affection to which each heart has a right, without robbing others. While we are to be gentle unto all men—never ungentle to any—there are those to whom we owe special tenderness. Those within our own home belong to this sacred inner circle."
"We must make sure that our home piety is true and real, that it is of the spirit and life, and not merely in form. It must be love—love wrought out in thought, in word, in disposition, in act. It must show itself not only in patience, forbearance, and self control, and in sweetness under provocation; but also in all gentle thoughtfulness, and in little tender ways in all the family interactions."
This sums up my feelings as a whole so well:
"It does not matter how much Bible reading, and prayer, and catechism-saying, and godly teaching, there may be in a home. If gentleness is lacking, that is lacking which most of all, the children need in the life of their home. A child must have love. Love is to its life, what sunshine is to plants and flowers. No young life can ever grow to its best—in a home without gentleness." 
So is GENTLENESS something that can be learned? According to Pastor Miller, the answer is yes.
"We must note, first of all, that the lesson has to be learned. It does not come naturally, at least to most people. We find it hard to be gentle always, and to all kinds of people. Perhaps we can be gentle on sunny days; but when the harsh north wind blows—we grow fretful, and lose our sweetness. Or we can be gentle without much effort to some gentle-spirited people, while perhaps we are almost unbearably ungentle to others. We are gracious and sweet to those who are gracious to us; but when people are rude to us, when they treat us unkindly, when they seem unworthy of our love—it is not so easy to be gentle to them. Yet that is the lesson which is everywhere taught in the Scriptures, and which the Master has set for us."
"It is a comfort to us to know that the lesson has to be learned—and does not come as a gift from God, without any effort. We must learn to be gentle, just as artists learn to paint lovely pictures. They spend years and years under masters, and in patient, toilsome effort—before they can paint pictures which at all realize the lovely visions of their soul. It is a still more difficult art to learn to reproduce visions of love in human life—to be always patient, gentle, kind. It gives us encouragement, as we are striving to get our lesson, to read the words in which Paul says that he had learned to be content whatever his condition was. It adds, too, to the measure of our encouragement to see from the chronology of the letter in which we find this bit of autobiography, that the apostle was well on toward the close of his life—when he wrote so triumphantly of this attainment. We may infer that it was not easy for him to learn the lesson of contentment, and that he was quite an old man before he had mastered it!"
"It is probably as hard to learn to be always gentle—as it is to learn to be always contented. It will take time, and careful, unwearying application. We must set ourselves resolutely to the task; for the lesson is one that we must not fail to learn, unless we would fail in growing into Christliness. It is not a matter of small importance. It is not something merely that is desirable, but not essential. Gentleness is not a mere ornament of life, which one may have, or may not have—as one may, or may not, wear jewelry. It is not a mere frill of character, which adds to its beauty, but is not part of it. Gentleness is essential in every true Christian life! It is part of its very warp and woof. Not to be gentle—is not to be like Jesus."
"Therefore the lesson must be learned. The golden threads must be woven into the texture. Nothing less than the gentleness of Christ himself, must be accepted as the pattern after which we are to fashion our life and character. Then, every day some progress must be made toward the attainment of this lovely ideal. "See that no day passes, in which you do not make yourself a somewhat better Christian." The motto of an old artist was, "No day without a line." If we set before us the perfect standard—the gentleness of our Master—and then every day make some slight advance, though it be but a line, toward the reproducing of this gentleness in our own life, we shall at last wear the ornament of a gentle spirit, which is so precious in God's sight."
"We must never rest satisfied with any partial attainment. Just so far as we are still ungentle, rude to anyone, even to a beggar, sharp in speech, haughty in bearing, unkind in any way to a human being—the lesson of gentleness is yet imperfectly learned, and we must continue our diligence. We must get control of our temper, and must master all our moods and feelings. We must train ourselves to check any faintest risings of irritation, turning it instantly into an impulse of tenderness. We must school ourselves to be thoughtful, patient, charitable, and to desire always to do good. The way to acquire any grace of character—is to compel thought, word, and act in the one channel—until the lovely quality has become a permanent part of our life."
"There is something else. We never can learn the lesson ourselves alone. To have gentleness in one's life—one must have a gentle heart. Mere human gentleness is not enough. We need more than training and self-discipline. Our heart must be made new—before it will yield the life of perfect lovingness. It is full of self and pride and hatred and envy and all undivine qualities. The gentleness which the New Testament holds up to us as the standard of Christian living—is too high for any mere attainment. We need that God shall work in us, to help us to produce the loveliness which is in the pattern—Christ. And this divine co-working is promised. "The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness." The Holy Spirit will help us to learn the lesson, working in our heart and life the sweetness of love, the gentleness of disposition, and the graciousness of manner, which will please God."
I loved the words Pastor Miller used to conclude his writing:
"There is a legend of a great artist. One day he had labored long on his picture, but was discouraged, for he could not produce on his canvas the beauty of his soul's vision. He was weary too; and sinking down on a stool by his easel, he fell asleep. While he slept an angel came; and, taking the brushes which had dropped from the tired hands, he finished the picture in marvelous way."
"Just so, when we toil and strive in the name of Christ to learn our lesson of gentleness, and yet grow disheartened and wary because we learn it so slowly—Christ himself comes, and puts on our canvas the touches of beauty which our own unskilled hands cannot produce! "Your gentleness has made me great."" Psalm 18:35
So for 2014, I will ask God to help me in this area of my life, to help me respond in GENTLENESS to those around me, beginning with those in my own home.

"Let your gentleness be evident to all." Philippians 4:5

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12

"We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children." 1 Thessalonians 2:7

To read A Gentle Heart  in its entirety click here.

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You can read what other bloggers picked as their Word of 2014 (starting January 1, 2014), by clicking here.

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  1. ASliceofHomeschoolPieDecember 27, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Thanks for taking the time to read this Susan. :-)

  2. I like Pastor Miller's thought that we are to be sweetest with our kin. Gentle is my word for 2014, too.


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