Chapter 5 

What Happens When You Enter the Blessing Life?

May I see your crystal goblets," asked the well-dressed man as he entered the jewelry store. "Certainly, sir, they are right over here," replied the clerk.

"I want a particular kind of goblet," the man explained. "I don't use them as drinking glasses; I use them as musical instruments. I need one that sounds the note A 440 vibrations a second."

"You are certainly welcome to check out all the goblets," the clerk commented, "but I haven't any idea in the world which ones are one note and which are another. Take all the time you need."

"It won't take long," the man said.

So saying, the customer took from his pocket a tuning fork. He struck it sharply until it was vibrating. Then he set it on the countertop so that it would set up reverberations. Next, he walked around the store and listened to the glasses. Every goblet that was tuned to the frequency of 440 vibrations a second was resonating. That is the law of harmonics. Things tuned to the same pitch respond to each other.

For this reason people who are tuned to blessing attract other blessing people-and they all attract blessings. In the same way, people who broadcast negative signals find all kinds of negative things coming to them.

Job said it clearly. "The thing that I greatly feared is come upon me" (Job 3:25).

Springfield, Ohio, is known for two products, International Harvester products and Marie Barnhart. It would be worth a trip to Springfield to meet Marie. She was born near the end of the nineteenth century, but she radiates a kind of perpetual youthfulness that makes her seem ageless. Her life is a blessing, a benediction.

If I have made it sound as though she is some kind of gray-plaster saint, I have misled you. For forty or more years she has taught a class of forty or more junior-high girls. She is about as old fashioned as high button shoes, but every generation of teen-agers thinks she is one of them.

While my daughter was in junior high school, Marie came to visit us. The combination worked all over again. Lori thought there was no one like Marie Barnhart. If I asked Marie her secret she simply said, "I really love those girls they are so precious."

But there is more to Marie. She blesses not only kids, but also tomato plants.

It is interesting that the people who know most about the power of thinking positively and of blessing things are the most eager to learn more about it. So it was not surprising that when I was lecturing in Springfield, Marie Barnhart was right there in one of the front seats. One day she invited me to lunch. This is one of the fringe benefits of the blessing life: blessing people are attracted to you. Sometimes these people are good cooks as well.

As we drove Marie confessed to me, "I have known Psalm 103 most of my life, but I never thought about it the way you have described it. It is wonderful. I think I am understanding something about myself. I always wondered why people turn and smile at me, even when I walk down the street of a strange city."

As we sat at the kitchen table she asked me if I liked home-grown tomatoes. I indicated that I did. She brought a tomato out of the refrigerator. It was almost as big as a cantaloupe.

"This one weighs four pounds," she said proudly.

That was more tomato than I planned to eat. So she rummaged around and found a two-pound tomato that looked small by comparison.

"Could you tell me about your tomatoes?" I asked.

"It may seem foolish to some people, but while I am working in my garden I sing and pray," she said. "I suppose I talk to my plants and sort of encourage them. Anyway, they seem to grow better.

"Beside this," she continued, "I always buy my tomato plants from a Wesleyan Methodist man who goes up and down the rows of plants in his greenhouse and sings. The tomato plants I get from him always seem to do better."

Our meal continued with more conversation like this. Sometimes I wonder if I am a teacher or the student. I hope I am both.

Blessing and Positive Thinking

Jack is an insurance man in Oklahoma City. He told me his method of "self-starting." Each morning he rises, showers, has breakfast, and then puts a phonograph record on the stereo system. To the stirring tones of "Under the Double Eagle" or "Stars and Stripes Forever," he marches out to meet the world of potential insurance customers.

"There is only one problem," he confided. "I know that this is a game I play with myself. I have to put the record on and I have to keep on doing it."

Jack's problem is one we all have. This is the reason for the magic of blessing. This is not an exercise in self-starting or self-help. It is not another program of auto-suggestion. These systems are good and obviously helpful to millions of people. Perhaps they are beginning courses that prepare us for the life of blessing, but they are certainly not the same thing.

The life of blessing must begin with God. In a short time we will discuss the specific way to bless God as the Bible asks us to do in thirty-three specific places. The important thing is to get your mind and attitude flowing in the direction that God's mind flows.

Once that important step is taken, you are ready to bless yourself. Obviously the attitude of God toward you is a positive one. If any one message shines through the Bible it is that God loves you. Facing the fact that he does, it seems logical to think that you ought to feel the same way about yourself. While it seems obvious that people are concerned about themselves, it does not follow that they feel good about themselves-that they like being who they are.

Strange as it seems, there is no way to ignore yourself. If you are told to forget yourself, the simple command centers your attention on you more than ever. Suddenly you are forced to think why it is so difficult to forget yourself. You have the same problem as the mule that is tied to a tree; he wants to get free, and so he walks around the tree trying to find a way of escape. All of the time he is winding himself closer to the tree-his prison.

Anyone trying to escape from his or her own self-hood becomes terribly self-conscious doing it. The only answer to this problem is to learn to bless yourself. This will make possible the third level of achievement-the art of blessing others. That is the goal of the blessing life. It is an end, not a beginning.

While the idea may seem strange to you if you have tried to become less selfish, it fits rather well into the comment of Jesus when he was asked, "What is the first and great commandment?" He said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself ' (Luke 10:27). That makes sense.

If you are full of self-hatred, if you literally curse who you are, it is not likely that you will overflow with love or blessing for anyone else.

The path is clear. We will start walking on it. We will talk about blessing God; then we will discuss blessing ourselves and finally we will talk about blessing other people.

I must issue a stern warning. Do not try to change this orderly process. Do not skip to the self-help section and imagine that you will avoid thinking about God. You must work with the formula. Good cooks know the importance of following directions. If you are making a cake and include everything but baking powder, both your reputation and the cake will fall flat.

There are good reasons for doing things the way I suggest. Thousands of people all over the world can testify that this system works. It may take a while to retrain your thoughts, but persist and it will work.

I heard of a man who wrote to Sears and Roebuck as follows: "Dear Sir, Please send me the one-cylinder gasoline engine described on page 847 of your fall catalog. If it is any good I will send you a check." A reply came: "Dear Sir. The engine is good. Please send check. If it is any good, we will send the engine." In the words of another, "The gospel has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

There is a difference, however, in your beginning the life of blessing. Though you may enter it with some doubting, it is so simple to try and so exciting to use that you will want to make it a permanent life-style whether or not it produces any miracles in your life. It is almost as though you were to learn that eating German chocolate cake and ice cream was the perfect reducing diet.

Start - please do. But remember the Marcie principle: "You gotta be four before you can be five."

Let's Think about God

I Seem to Be a Verb is the title of a book by Buckminster Fuller. This title appeals to me because it helps me to understand myself. It also helps me to know more about God.

Putting God into a static word like a noun is like trying to crowd a sunrise into an eight-by-ten frame. He doesn't fit. God doesn't fit into any of our attempts to explain him. Thinking about God is not easy, but we must think about God.

Although no person has seen God at any time (John 1:18), almost everyone has some idea of what God looks like. For some he is a bewhiskered grandfather, smiling and indulgent. For others he is a brilliant shining light. For still others he is a kind of power, like electricity, but not exactly, of course.

I heard of one man who thought of God as a great big staring eye. That is a horrible picture, but let me tell you how he got it.

As a young boy he lived on a farm. Along with his father he worked in the fields. The father, a stern taskmaster, never allowed his sons to shirk. Even when he had to go into the barn to get something, he had a method of control. Conveniently enough, he had a glass eye. Taking this glass eye out of its socket and laying it on top the fence post, he would warn, "I am going into the barn but I will still be watching you."

Years later in adolescence, the young son came across a verse in the Bible: "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3). Reading that verse was like turning a key in the storehouse of memory. All the feelings of resentment that were stored since childhood came flooding out. "Is God really like my father's watchful eye?" he asked. "How could a God like that love me. Or, perhaps more to the point, how could I love him?"

How difficult it would be for that man to bless God! If God were a celestial radar scanning the earth for signs of human weakness, who could love him?

Each of us is faced with a problem. We know we cannot make any accurate image of God - even though our mind thinks in pictures - yet we must think of God in some way. If we cannot think of him, how can we bless him?

The ancient Hebrew poem gives us a plan. So we shall look at Psalm 103 in the Old Testament. As you read this outline, it will be helpful to have your own copy of the Scriptures in front of you. In no way is this book an attempt to take the place of the actual reading of the Scripture itself. Quite the contrary. This outline of a journey that I have taken and encouraged thousands of others to take is merely a diary. The Bible itself is the map.

Truthfully God is a verb. He described himself to Moses by saying, "I Am." He acts. He is known by the way he acts. While we can never understand the complete nature of God - although all the religions of the world try - we can learn a great deal about him by seeing what he does. He does what he does because of who he is. We learn about the who by examining the what.

There is one more problem. Even though we are trying to think about the ways God feels and acts, we are limited to our own experiences and our own vocabulary. It is as though we are trying to describe Niagara Falls when all we have seen is a leaking faucet.

Maybe it is like trying to view a mountain through a keyhole. Our view is limited. But it is a start, and you have to start somewhere.

 

Chapter 6 

First Lessons in God Watching

I push the blades of grass apart and lay my fingers on God's heart," said Walt Whitman. You might try this. Of course, all that you might see would be the brown earth. After all, you are not Walt Whitman.

Perhaps another figure of speech from the same author will make it easier to begin "God watching."

I look at the grass, 
Perhaps it is the handkerchief of the Lord, 
Dropped unknowingly by the owner 
With his initial in the corner.

That begins to make sense. The miracle of grass is a way to understand how God acts. It is a miracle of life.

You may not be a nature lover. Grass may not be in your poetic vocabulary. After all, isn't it that irascible herb that turns Saturday mornings into hassles with lawnmowers instead of putters and number three irons? Isn't grass that willful truant that deserts the fertilized lawn to grow luxuriantly in the cracks in the driveway? In that case, Whitman is wasted on you.

There is a picture of God that appeals to everyone. Actually it is not one single view of the Almighty - it is more like a portrait gallery. If you will hang these twelve portraits in your mind, you will fall in love with your heavenly father. These show what he really is.

It shouldn't be difficult to think of your mind as a picture gallery. What else can it be? Learn to walk into this gallery of blessing and spend a few moments each day in front of each of these pictures. You will discover new words to describe the feelings you have. You will search for new meanings in the portraits of God. You may even exclaim in the words of the ecstatic psalmist, "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name." It could be.

Portrait Number One: Forgiveness

"Who forgiveth all thine iniquities." -Psalm 103:3

A bright-eyed seven-year-old was asked by her Sunday school teacher, "What is the first thing we must do if we want Jesus to forgive our sins?"

The reply was instant: "You gotta sin."

If we were to understand "iniquities," we might appreciate forgiveness. This somber, old-fashioned word does not fit easily into our modern conversations. If you have a good memory you may recall phrases like "dens of iniquity." This sounds like an opium dispensary in a hide-out for thieves. It might help if we used a modern word, perversion.

The Hebrew word from which our English word iniquity comes is Awon, which means to twist or turn - to take something good and to make evil out of it. It is the wrong turn of the automobile that may disfigure or kill our loved ones.

Sin is like that. Lust is but love turned in the wrong directions. What is greed but ambition that has run astray? What is anger but concern twisted out of shape?

No one has to be convinced that the world in general and each of us in particular has taken a great many wrong turns. A sense of lostness is inevitable. Next comes guilt.

To this heaviness of heart comes the word forgiveness. Someone has commented that poor people have the advantage over rich people because they know the joy of struggling with a debt for a long time and then getting it paid. That is a good feeling.

Everyone has sinned. So forgiveness is sweet for everyone. God forgives.

Can you remember when you experienced forgiveness at any level? Someone has said, "Forget it. It's all right." Maybe you felt the emotions of forgiveness when you were the forgiver, not the one forgiven. To be able to forgive is a greater pleasure than to be forgiven. An ancient proverb says, "He who does not forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must cross."

If you stand for a few moments in front of the picture of God's forgiveness you will feel a warm glow. It is like standing in front of a roaring fire after you have tramped wearily through a blizzard. It is like finding a cool drink of water when you have been dying of thirst. It is like the bliss of relief when stabbing pain goes away.

Luxuriate in this feeling. Bless God for it. Think of God's forgiving love as a rushing river. You stand on the river bank and cast your sins one by one into that turbulent rushing stream. While you watch they are carried away, out of sight. They are hurled along pell mell into the sea of his forgetfulness.

"Bless the Lord, who forgiveth all thine iniquities."

Portrait Number Two: Healing 

"Who healeth all thy diseases." - Psalm 103:3

You were designed for health. Every part of your body has tremendous power to restore itself, to heal itself.

We all know this. The difficult question is, If we are supposed to be well, why are so many people sick? Why do hospitals spread like overnight mushrooms all across the country?

These are good questions. They deserve a good answer.

What is now called psychosomatic medicine (the influence of the mind on the body) is recognized by every school child. It is a shocking fact that this truth was ignored until the early part of the twentieth century. We are talking about more than this when we talk about God's power to heal-we are talking about heavenly intervention in our earthly system.

Even so, it is remarkable that David, the shepherd-king who lived a thousand years before the time of Christ, recognized the relationship between the attitudes of mind and the condition of the body. He listed healing immediately following forgiveness.

Through the inspiration that underlies all Scripture, this important idea has been preserved for us. Iniquity is the forerunner of disease. Modern science is doing extensive research to discover the exact relationship between stress (twisting, pressure, tension) and sickness. Everything that is written seems like a simple commentary on ancient Bible truths.

This does not mean that sick people have consciously and deliberately sinned and are bearing the weight of God's anger. Oh no. The exact opposite is true.

The misguided steps of people have taken them away from God's planned abundance; they have missed health. (In a sense that is a kind of sin because the principle word in the Bible for sin is Hamartia, which means "to miss the mark." ) Sickness and sin are related. The good news is -and what wonderful news it is - that God is so eager to heal their diseases that he deals with the errors that caused them. He forgives their iniquity.

God loves sick people as they are. But he loves them too much to leave them that way.

Above the door of the Harvard Medical School is the motto "Physicians dress the wound; God heals it." Most medical doctors know this. There is a force for healing that is constantly working within us. Often there is an assist from a dedicated medical team, but all the healing has to come from nature. And nature is just the habitual behavior of God, the way he acts.

How do you visualize healing? How do you paint a picture of this miracle power?

Remember falling down on the sidewalk when you were a child? You skinned your knee. In a few days a scab formed and healing was under way. Or perhaps you have had surgery. Stitches closed the wound and healing took place. Much of the healing was visible; much of it was not. Remember how quietly and comfortingly the doctors and nurses moved among the patients of the hospital. For some there was medicine to relieve raging fever; for others there were words of encouragement and information. God is like that. He is a great physician.

Maybe you will want to think of the healing of the earth after it has been ravaged by war. Carl Sandburg's poem Grass may help you.

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo 
Shove them under and let me work -- 
I am the grass; I cover all. 

Nature heals the ravaged earth.

Healing is a beautiful word. Behind healing is God. Think about it. Bless God for it. The more you affirm the healing of God, the more you will experience it.

As this experiment in the life of blessing continues, I will tell many stories of ways this healing principle works. For the moment, let me encourage you not to try to understand it. Simply be glad that there is a healing power in the world. Bless God for it.

Portrait Number Three: Redemption 

"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction." - Psalm 103:4 

What happens if wrong thinking, wrong living (iniquity), and disease have destroyed us? Is it ever too late to get better? The Bible uses the word redeem to describe the process by which a miraculous, almost unbelievable change can take place.

Part of the problem for most of us is that we don't know what to expect because we don't know what we have lost. In a world of unredeemed people, we compare ourselves with our contemporaries. The result? We think we are normal when we are merely average. There is a difference.

My friend Ewald Wolfram is a veritable oracle of down-to-earth proverbs. His unconventional approach to life has startled thousands of people into the strange exercise of thinking. Out of the "Oracles of Ewald" comes the following: "The average person in America has 1.9 legs."

Once you have furrowed your brow and tried to understand whether or not you read correctly, he explains, "Obviously most of us are born with two legs. Some are not. Other people lose legs in accidents or in surgery. Those sad facts are going to change the average. To get the average, we simply divide the number of legs there are by the number of people having them. The answer? Strange but true, the average person in America has 1.9 legs."

This is the average, understand. That is not normal. That certainly is not what God intended. It is important for us to understand what we are supposed to be if we want to know what we can be.

For the person skilled in blessing there needs to be another sentence: "When we recognize what we don't have we know what we will have. That is the purpose of redemption.

Redemption means that whatever has been lost by either disobedience or ignorance can be restored. Locked within each of us is the eternal memory of a heavenly plan.

Stop now and underscore that sentence; it can change your life.

If, then, we are going to see a restoration of that original purpose of the Almighty, what will it be? What kind of picture will we paint to help us visualize God in his work of redeeming people? It may be that when you try to think of the back-to-normal picture of yourself you draw a blank. But that is not necessarily bad.

Think of your mind as a piece of canvas stretched on a frame. It is ready for a painting. Now let your imagination go as wild as it will. Try to reconstruct the thoughts of God as he pondered the creation of humanity. What did he want?

Let your faith paint the picture, not your mirror. Don't think of what you have become; think of what you were planned to be.

While scientists are not the final authorities, they sometimes show a greater respect for the creativeness of God than people who talk glibly about the conflict between science and religion.

People who study the human mind marvel at it. Recently such a group affirmed, "The average human mind is capable of learning to read, write, and speak twenty-five different languages. The average human mind could memorize the entire Bible or the complete Encyclopedia Britannica."

How much have we lost when we can't remember our mother-in-law's phone number or the pledge to the flag?

How quickly we settle for mediocrity when God intended excellence. "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works" (Ps. 139:14).

How can you visualize redemption? While I certainly do not want to minimize the work of Jesus in his crucifixion and resurrection, I realize that for many people this does not explain redemption. There must be a theology first. It is important. Perhaps you will come to that profound theological affirmation in time to come. We cannot assume that everyone who reads these words is at that point now.

A simple start at picturing redemption would be to imagine a destitute artist who had labored for years on a painting. Many times he has refused offers to buy it. He cannot sell it; it is too much a part of him. Finally in his hunger he takes it to a pawn shop where he is given a few dollars for it. He does not forget it. He plans to return and get it some day.

Finally the poor artist is given a job for which he is paid lavishly. He hurries to the pawn shop. In return for the few dollars he is given his picture again. Redemption is like that.

Whatever may be your mental or physical condition at this moment, be assured that God is trying to give you back all your have lost. Bless this part of his nature.

Portrait Number Four: Victory

"[He] crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies." - Psalm 103:4

What a good feeling it is to win. What a depressing feeling it is to be a loser.

Many struggles seem common to all people. Even the most devoted and optimistic believer is not exempt. I do not pretend that you will be. But that is not bad news.

It may be that you are going to have struggles with money, family, or health. The important thing is that God has promised you victory. Each moment is bringing you closer to the winner's circle. That faith will sustain you.

Stories from concentration camps and prisons have shown us that no matter how unrealistic hope seemed to be, as long as prisoners retained that hope they could survive torture and deprivation. With no more clothes, food, or comforts than other hopeless prisoners, the hopeful ones survived. Faith in an ultimate victory is a powerful force.

This is not a theory. It is not a dream. While there are as many interpretations of the Bible as there are persons reading it, there is one thing on which everyone must agree: those who trust in God are promised victory. God is a God of victory.

Now, here is what you must do. You must compose your own picture of victory. Have you had a moment of triumph in your life? Remember it. Was it a race you won while you were in high school? Was it the time you moved to the head of the class in a spelling contest? Was it the time you carried the football over the line for the winning touchdown? And what about the time you realized that you had finally conquered a bad habit? Whatever it was, remember the glow.

May I tell you about my personal picture of victory? At one time in my life I felt I had more wars than I had weapons. I felt myself slowly turning into a loser. To lose once in a while is not bad; to become a loser is fatal.

Help came. It came in the form of a tiny snapshot taken in Paris. Frank Lowe was showing me the tourist attractions of this world-famous city. When we came to the Arc de Triomphe, the magnificent gateway built to celebrate Napoleon's successful return from battle, he insisted that I have my picture made. So the picture was made and I forgot it. 

One day the picture turned up. It was yellowing with age, but it brought to mind again the youthful exuberance and enthusiasm I had in those days. I remembered, too, the words of St. Paul as he talked about the normal attitude of a believer: "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14). That was the feeling I wanted to have.

 I remember feeling a little foolish as I took the yellowing photograph and pasted it on the front of a file drawer in my office. As I sat at my desk I could look at it. Victory. Victory. I am standing under the arch of triumph; I cannot fail. The feeling of victory is a delicious feeling. It can be yours. 

You will have to construct your own picture of victory. Whether it is landing the biggest contract of your career, snagging a giant trout, hitting the ball over the fence, or reaching a spiritual victory-paint the picture in vivid colors on your mind. Put that picture in your blessing gallery. Now spend a while thanking God for the feeling you had.

 It feels good, doesn't it? Don't forget how it feels. Bless God for the promise of victory in other things. Remember, "He crowneth thee." 

Portrait Number Five: Satisfaction 

"Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." -Psalm 103:5 

Recently my wife asked me to read a story in one of her household magazines. It might be called heavy reading because it told the story of a woman who lost more than four hundred pounds of excess weight. If it hadn't been so tragic, it would have been humorous. Anyone who has struggled to lose a few extra pounds can certainly sympathize with anyone who had to lose a fifth of a ton of weight. Life was miserable for this woman. To take a bath in a tub meant that she could put only two inches of water in the tub or it would overflow when she got in. 

When finally this heroic woman was able to trace the roots of her uncontrollable hunger she found that her childhood was filled with dissatisfaction and hunger. 

Apparently she and her brother lived a very painful life because of the alcoholism of their mother. She made them wait for her in the car while she spent her time in the tavern getting drunk. Once in a while she would bring them a few mouthfuls of food. Sometimes it would be a small bottle of olives-this would be the food for the day. 

The children ate anything they could. Even leaves from the trees became part of their food. If the time ever comes when we can eat all we want, we will never be hungry again. This thought became an obsession with these troubled children. 

When the girl became old enough she found a husband and began to eat. Eating became a passion. Of course, she got fat. 

How did she lose all this weight? Her satisfactions had to change. It was that simple. 

While we are not talking about being overweight, it is interesting to notice that doctors often say that people eat not to satisfy their nutritional needs, but their emotional hungers. In any event, satisfaction is a wonderful word. It means that there is just the right amount. There is not too much. There is not too little. 

As you observe the religious practices of people, does it occur to you that many religious ideas seem to operate on a mood of quiet desperation? As you reach one level of achievement someone raises the standard. As you cross the goal line someone moves the goal posts. You never quite catch up. It is as though you had to feel mildly guilty all the time in order to be holy. 

Whatever happened to the rest for your soul that Jesus promised? The rest is still available. God is the God of adequacy. If you are frustrated and dissatisfied, begin now to bless the source of adequacy that God will give you.

If you feel like the mother who complained, "I feel like a six-piece pie that is being served to ten people," there is hope. Walk into your blessing gallery and think of your picture of satisfaction. Put a frame around that picture and gaze at it. In case you cannot think of any pictures, here are some suggestions: 

1. Picture the ocean as it washes against the shoreline. How big is it? How deep? How much energy does it have? How long has it been there? How long will it be there? The answer is: enough. It is big enough, deep enough, old enough, and energetic enough. I can remember the little boy who had been raised in poverty. Seeing the ocean for the first time he exclaimed, "This is the first time I have seen anything there is enough of." There is abundance. 

2. When I think of "enough" I remember being at the well in Samaria. As every Bible student knows, Jacob's well is there. It was here that Jesus said to a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water, "Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." 

The scene is easy to remember as you watch tourists come and go. Most of them want to taste that water. If I am leading a group, I always see that each person has a cup - even if I have to show them how to make a cup out of a piece of notebook paper. It is important to me that they taste this water that still flows freely just as it has for thousands of years. 

On a recent visit to Israel we saw a large group of tourists from Poland. They seemed particularly reverent. This particular place in their pilgrimage was extremely important to them. Not only did they avidly drink from the well, using the small cups they had brought from home, but most of them brought plastic jugs and bottles so that they could carry gallons of this sparkling water back to Poland. 

I was surprised and impressed. Then I reasoned that this kind of activity must go on year after year. Yet the well does not run dry. No one will exhaust it. This has become one of my pictures in my gallery of blessings. 

Of course the best kind of picture for you to hang in your gallery of blessing is one that brings a strong emotional feeling to you. Looking at this picture should give you the feeling of being satisfied, of having enough. 

That is the nature of God. Bless him for being like that. 

Portrait Number Six: Renewal 

"So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." - Psalm 103:5 

Youth. That is the magic word. Someone observed humorously that American women at thirty look as though they were forty because they begin to worry at twenty how they are going to look at fifty.

 I do not believe this is true, but it does at least hint at the mania for renewal. Highly paid writers who compose advertising material that must sell merchandise say that there are eleven magic words in selling. One is new. People love what is new. 

The innocent adjective old is usually seen in poor company. Who has not read of a "crabby old man"? Surely there are some disagreeable young men, aren't there? In the stories it is always the old miser. Why? Is he a miser because he is old or is he old because he is a miser? 

Even God does not like to be labeled "old." When revealing his name to Moses he said, "I Am" (Exod. 3:14). So insistent was the Almighty that he repeated this fact. Whatever else God may be, he is, as Walter Horton described him, "our eternal contemporary." 

An interesting problem faces us as we think about the renewing power of God. If, as scientists claim, our bodies replace their elements at least every seven years, and some of the elements of our bodies are replaced every twenty-four hours or less, why do we age? Why do we continue building the new parts of our bodies like the defective old ones? 

For example, if a man has heart trouble at the age of forty and in seven years all the elements of his heart have replaced themselves, why does he still have a leaky valve on his forty-seventh birthday? 

Perhaps I can put the problem another way. If I were to offer a thousand dollars to anyone who could grow an old leaf on a tree, who would claim the reward? You can never grow old. You can only grow new. 

You cannot grow an old hair on your head. You cannot grow an old fingernail. We always grow new. 

Does this aspect of God's provision for you make you happy? It should. The Greek word translated "gospel" in your Bible is literally the good news, not the good old. 

How can you make yourself conscious of this tremendous power? What kind of picture will you paint for your gallery of blessing-a picture that will make you feel the surging newness of the life that is stretching out in front of you? 

Can you remember the ruddy newness of a newly born infant? Every child that is born is a reminder that God has not despaired of the human race. 

Think about the crocuses or tulips pushing through the snow with the flaming yellow and red blossoms. Think of June in New England: 

What is so rare as a day in June, 
Then, if ever, come perfect days. 
The heaven tries earth if it be in tune, 
And over it warmly her soft ear lays. 
Whether we look or whether we listen 
We hear life murmur or see it glisten. 
Every clod feels a stir of might, 
An instinct within it reaches and towers, 
And reaching blindly above it for light 
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers.

Has something happened to you that has plunged you into a whole new world? You felt the past was thrown off like the golden locks that lay on the barber's floor after your first haircut. Can you capture again the feeling of freedom with your first pair of sneakers after a long summer of going barefoot? 

Whatever it is that can paint a scene of newness on your mind, capture that feeling. Frame it. Put it in your gallery of blessings. "Behold I make all things new," says God. 

There is no way you can hang an actual portrait of God in your gallery, but when you think of newness, he is not far away. Bless him. It is a good feeling.

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