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Thursday Thoughts August 24, 2023

Thursday Thoughts

August 24, 2023


Last week was fair week. I enjoy going to the fair, taking my time walking through the animal barns, horticulture, and homemaking exhibits. The sense of pride and accomplishment shows on the faces of the people as they show their animals in the ring or walk around and see if they were awarded any ribbons. It has taken months of work for them to get to this point.


There is an overarching theme that is common to all exhibits: showing the best that the exhibitor has to offer. How many zinnias did the gardener grow to get the perfect specimen? How many cookies did the baker bake to get the perfect cookies for the judges to taste and see? How many jars of peaches did the home canner do to stand up against the competition? How many images did the photographer take to get one that was worthy to use in the competition? How many times did the steer have to be haltered and led around the barnyard before he was compliant? How many stitches were ripped out of the garment and quilt exhibits before they were perfect? What we see is the outcome of hard work and the result of their labor.


But what about the zinnias that had mildew, the cookies that were too crispy (yum), and the jar of peaches that didn't seal? Were there lots of photos that got deleted from the memory card? And what do you do with an animal that doesn't gain weight and does not meet the standards to be in the show? Did some of the fabric exhibits wind up in the rag bag? We don't see those exhibits because they were failures in some way.


Don't we all have failures in our lives? Some failures are out there for the world to see and some we keep hidden away so that one one knows our shame. If our failures were as easy to overcome as too-browned cookies or unsealed peaches that get eaten in a flash, we wouldn't have to face the fact that we failed at something and face the consequences. Often those consequences are anger at oneself because we have this notion we ought to be perfect. It is easy to reassure someone else that human perfection is not possible but we can often be hard on ourselves. As hard as we try, we just can't be perfect.


There are lots of examples of Biblical characters who failed miserably but were victorious later in their life. King David was a character for sure and enjoyed successes but also failures. He committed lots of sins, but he was always devoted to God, a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Elijah, even though he had done great things, was guilty of self-pity and was in despair until he heard a whisper, the still small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12). A young man, John whose other name was Mark, started on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. Something happened along the way because John Mark left the two missionaries and went home to Jerusalem. Paul was not happy with him and it caused a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39). Latter on they must have settled their differences because Paul called him one of his fellow workers and one that was very useful to him. The Apostle Peter called John Mark his son because he was so fond of him. The Gospel of Mark was written by this man who experienced failure at the beginning of his missionary work. Of course the two we think of immediately for being a failure was Saul and his attack on Christians but who turned out to be instrumental in carrying the message of the Good News all over the civilized world and had his name changed to Paul. Then there was Peter who denied Jesus three times but was forgiven and Jesus called him the rock on which the church was built.


God used the failures of these people to build the Kingdom on Earth. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10. Isn't that reassuring? God knows us, every cell in our body and he knows our failures can be devastating. "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 32:18. Haven't we all been there? Oh, what Peter must have felt after denying Jesus three times. Think of the guilt he carried with him. His spirit had to be crushed. He probably felt shame and disgust with himself, thinking he was ruined forever. But Peter was restored when Jesus appeared to him and asked him three times if he loved him. (John 21: 15-18)


Our attitudes, actions, and words may not always win us a blue ribbon. But we know we are safe because our failures can cause us to grow and our debts are forgiven. "My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins-and not only our sins but the sins of all the world." 1 John 2:1-2



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