Tag Archives: humility

Four Lessons Learned

Four Lessons from “The Little Engine That Could”

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A while ago I wrote this article on another platform. I thought you would enjoy it and learn what a little book can teach us. It’s amazing what lessons we can learn from children’s books.

This past weekend I had the delightful job to read to my 3-year-old granddaughter. She chose “The Little Engine That Could”. Not only do I remember reading this book to my children but I remember reading it as a child. And I remember reading to my grade ones when I taught school.

The history of the book goes through several versions until Arnold Munk with the pen name of Watty Piper, wrote and had it published in 1930. Lois Lenski did the first pictures. An updated version, published in 1954 had colourful illustrations by George and Doris Hauman. This is the version I remember and the one that is on the children’s bookshelf.

As I read the story to my granddaughter I got excited about how the story built up emotion and taught lessons on the way.

The story is about a little train who wants to bring presents over the hill to children in another town. They are patiently and excitedly awaiting their gifts. However, on the way to the town, the little engine breaks down. The toys are very upset and the funny little clown sets off to find another train to help them.

As they go to the different trains asking for help, I thought about all the things we put faith in here on earth instead of what God would want us to.

Four Faith Lessons from Four Trains

We put much status into buying new things. There is always a new widget or gizmo that we want to have. Cellphones and computers top the list for new innovations and the need to have the latest model.

This release of new gizmos is gaining momentum each year.

When I stop to think about it we purchased our first computer in 1989 — it was an amazing TI99 4/A. And we watched it on our TV. (Hubby and I are trying to remember all this.) I know we purchased a used Apple IIe after that. I think I did some early programming on that machine. It couldn’t do much but it fascinated me.

Lessons

TI99 4/A similar to the one we had.

Lessons

Apple IIe like our second computer.

But ever since those first computers, things have moved swiftly forward. Newer and better.

Do we look down on things that aren’t perfect and shiny; that aren’t new?

Personally, I love refurbishing old things to make them new. I like things that are made of wood not plastic.

Lessons

My grandfather’s end table that I refurbished years ago.

When we were younger we didn’t take a car loan. Instead, we bought used cars and saved our money. As long as the car ran that’s all that mattered. We still often buy used cars because the depreciation on a new vehicle is ridiculous. Check it out before you decide on your next vehicle.

But the shiny New Engine didn’t want to help the little toy train because he was too special — too proud. He looked down on the little train and said a resounding “NO”.

2.) Next comes a Big Engine:

We always think might is right and power makes things happen. But if we look throughout history we see the powerful fall from their towers. They topple down. They can’t keep up the illusion.

“Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:17–18, The Message).”

Bigger is better, right? Let’s look at the monster homes of this age.

Why do we need so much space? What’s the purpose?

When we downsized from our family home (the first time), we bought a small townhome. I enjoyed the two years we lived there. There was more time to get out and do things — not being tied to looking after a big home.

Bigger isn’t better. Look at your needs, not at your wants. Enjoy what you have now. Save for the future. Take experiences (playing in the park, walking somewhere new) instead of putting out big bucks for new and big items.

I thought about the Christian church — bigger is not always better. In fact when you get so many people joining how can you be sure that they are in fellowship with one another?

I love this article:

But the Big Engine says he is too important and won’t “pull the likes of you”.

Sometimes we do get tired and defeated. We figure we are too old, or not useful. The defeatist attitude stalks our every moment.

I think these thoughts need to be taken captive as I have learned that Christ gives me strength.

Here is a great article on Crosswalk.com about taking your thoughts captive:

A couple of years ago I volunteered to run a VBS at our church. From the first day, I caught a really bad cold and cough. I didn’t know how I was going to keep going. I kept praying. And I kept going.

The minister set up a microphone system so I could talk softly into it and the kids could hear me. Actually, I found the entire week filled with peace. The kids sensed the need to work well and quietly. We had fun.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13, NIV).”

But the Rusty Old Engine sighed and said he could not. He was too tired and weary.

A Little Blue Engine comes chugging merrily along. The dolls and toys don’t have to ask this train for help, she asks them what’s wrong. She tells them she isn’t very big and has never been over the mountain.

Do you sometimes feel that a job is too big for you to handle?
Do you feel overwhelmed with the details and difficulty of the task?

Well, this little engine can teach us lessons.

She thought of what the kids would be missing if this little train didn’t bring the gifts to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.

And then she said: I think I can. I think I can. It was a supreme effort but she kept chugging along saying — I think I can.

If there are times you don’t think you can do something — ask Jesus. He is right there to give you the strength, courage or inspiration to get the job done.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10, NIV).”

If there are times you need to go somewhere or do something you have never attempted, remember from scripture:

“but the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1, NIV).”

Lessons

Bible Art by Janis Cox

And the Little Blue Engine pulled that train up the mountain and down into the town to deliver the presents to the boys and girls.

These were my discoveries as I read this book to my granddaughter. Certainly, there are 4 good life lessons to get from this tiny book.

  1. Don’t be swayed by new things.
  2. Bigger is not necessarily better.
  3. Even when you feel unable to do a task, Jesus can strengthen you.
  4. Say: I think I can. Then be bold and do it.

ARE YOU ASHAMED TO PRAY?

Ashamed to Pray

by Jennifer Slattery (reprinted with permission)

Are You Too Ashamed to Pray?

Each day, we are engaged in a cosmic battle, a battle over self. It is a war between entitlement and sacrifice, between self-love and sacrificial love. And each day, God gives us a choice–to squelch His Spirit, His love, His still small voice as we fight for our rights, or to lay it down, allowing Him to reign and love others through us.

Most of the time, I believe we’re oblivious to the consequences. Consumed with ourselves, we don’t even notice the woman in the grocery aisle, the man at the gas station, or perhaps our spouse coming home from work discouraged and exhausted.

In each encounter, God is whispering, tugging, urging us on as His ambassadors. Unfortunately, (if you’re anything like me) the inner voice of self-love often screams louder.

Two weeks ago, our family took a trip to Odenton, Maryland to visit family. It was a wonderful time of fun and exploration–a time for me to see my brother, whom I hadn’t in over five years. But amidst our fun, I soon found myself on a cosmic battleground.

All week, God had impressed on my heart the need to lay myself down, to seek not my own glory, not my will, but His. To be like a wildflower tucked in a nook in the valley, ever-growing, reaching for the sun, even if no one notices.

And then Friday came–our last day in Maryland. I started the day at a surrender zenith, ready to die to myself and be an active instrument of God’s mercy and grace. I was determined to live out the truth God had showed me one morning in 1 Peter chapter four.

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God”  (1 Peter 4:1-2, NLT). (Emphasis mine.)

As I read the passage, I thought of a dear sister in Christ dying of brain cancer. She’s going through a rough time. She’s lost her sight, and her speech has become difficult. But through it all, her heart remains centered in Christ. Each day, her life shouts out His praises and points everyone around her to the cross.

I wanted to be like her! To praise God regardless of what I faced, to be so surrendered to Him, so focused on His love and purposes, that my life radiates His love and glory.

My determination was quickly undone, not by a fight against cancer but instead, something as trivial as crab cakes. And because of my quickly rising self-love, I tainted Christ’s name.

That afternoon, we decided to begin a search for crab-cakes. My husband had heard Baltimore was famous for them. This was the one thing he’d been looking for, the one thing he longed to do before we headed home. Being the loving, supportive, self-sacrificing … (uh-hem. I shift uncomfortably and avoid your gaze) wife I … long to be, I wholeheartedly agreed, and we all climbed into vehicles and headed downtown.

Stepping out of the van and into a dingy and smelly parking lot, my grumble meter sky-rocketed. When we reached street level, things–and the smell–got worse. I clutched my purse to my chest, and my sister and I exchanged glances.

“Can we go somewhere else?” I’m sure my voice held a pleading tone.

All the women agreed. So, we clamored back into our vehicles and drove to the harbor, filled with numerous clean restaurants–any one of which would mesh well with my germo-phobe preferences. Yes, I was pleased. This would do quite nicely.

But unfortunately, we kept walking, past the  trendy harbor area with its cute shops and alluring smells to a busy intersection lined with brick buildings. Memories of Lexington Street still fresh in my mind, I watched the clean–did I mention clean?–restaurants face behind us, my agitation growing. Snippets of my morning devotion came to mind, calling me to die to myself, embracing each moment (bacteria and all) in full surrender. Relinquishing all rights and expectations.

But I wasn’t listening. I was too focused on me.

The restaurant we ended up at was anything but five-star. The bathroom smelled as if it had been doused in urine. The carpet looked as if it’d been splotched with car grease, and the menus needed to be soaked in sanitizer. It was three o’clock, well past lunchtime, and I was starved … and a bit queasy, as my germo-phobiness waged war with my hunger.

Sitting with a firm scowl, arms crossed, nose wrinkled, I didn’t hide my disgust well. Oh, what a role model I was for my daughter!

And then it came time to pray.

The reality of my witness–or lack there of–hit me in the gut. I thought of the waitress who watched me, frumping, wanting to be anywhere else but there. Did I want her to know I was a Christian? Or would it be better, for Christ’s sake, if she didn’t?

Last Thursday, Nikki Arana asked a powerful question:

“Would you share your faith if it cost you your life?” (You can read her post here.)

I’ve often wondered about that–how I would respond if I lived in a country filled with persecution. If, because of my faith, I faced unemployment, physical pain, or even death. I don’t have an answer, but I do know, in the day-to-day when I am called to *live out* my faith as Christ’s ambassador, I often fall short. Not in the face of extreme danger, but instead, in the face of self, over something as trivial as crab cakes.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to die to myself, not just in the big, courageous moments, but in those day-to-day encounters–standing in line at a grocery store or eating at a dirty restaurant. Help me, in all things, to be alert to my witness. Help me to radiate your sacrificial love–the love that drove you to a cross, for me.

 

BODILY FUNCTIONS – Sunday’s Sermon

Bodily Functions – my reflections on Sunday’s Sermon

It’s a good thing that Harry, our minister, has learned to trust in God and give Him the lead.

Today in church we had no electrical power. He knew ahead of time and had a generator working. But even with that the generator, power was lost twice,; once when we needed it for the words for singing; and another time in the middle of a talk by a member and a reading of the Scripture.

Harry kept cool through the whole service. Never once did we think that it bothered him. After the service, he said, “it was tough.” We didn’t notice as his sense of humour and relaxed attitude made a lovely service despite the difficulties.

Our sermon title this morning was “Bodily Functions”. Based on Romans 12:3-8 NIV.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying,then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Starting with Paul’s humble admission that he can only speak because of God’s grace, Paul proceeds to tell us how we can be a viable part of the church body.

What did I learn this morning?

  • Self-esteem, the buzz word of the 60s, has finally come crashing down with new research to tell us that it doesn’t do much to build a strong person. No higher grades, no better jobs or no better life – with a high self-esteem. What does seem to matter is self-control. Telling our kids how good they are all the time doesn’t help them [self-esteem building]. Praising kids when they do well and gently critiquing them when they do wrong helps build a good person [self-regulation]. Even Oprah Winfrey has reversed this point of view:

“But in recent years, researchers have found that self-esteem falls far short of its anticipated benefits. What’s more important is a sense of self-mastery—getting along in the world and knowing you can handle yourself in myriad situations.”

  • He talked about faith and how we get there. We need to be REAL and honest: Admit we are in need and then grow in our faith as our eyes are opened to who we are. It is healthy to be truthful.
  • We need to get a balance in our minds between Jesus’ teaching of humility and the world’s view of self. Paul also teaches us to use our gifts – that is self, right? So we need to balance the ability to do things well and still be humble about it.
  • God’s Spirit flows through us giving us abilities to help His Church. We don’t want to turn off that flow. Once again balance the self and humility.We need each other as part of the church. We need those who prophesy, the encouragers, the servers, the teachers, the contributors, the leaders and those who show mercy.
  • We need to find our part in the church – remember, the church is a people. We need to be willing to search out who we are and be willing to do our part to work for God’s Church. That might be stepping out in faith – being brave and pushing past the fears. But remember, too, not to get too much of self in the way so we can get along with others.

Great things to remember.

Thanks, Harry.

Here is the PODCAST. Part 1. Part 2.