When last I wrote, I quoted one of the most influential authors in my personal life, L. H. M. Soulsby. She writes the sort of books that I wish I could hand to every woman I know, because each page ministers to me in a new way. The wisdom is old, but as any godly wisdom is, it is timeless in its applicability. But, the women in my life are a useful lot, ministering to their families and holding jobs and laboring over their studies–no spare hours to sit in leisure and pour over antique books.
Lately, I’ve been so blessed by my own time to engage in study, currently Stray Thoughts on Character. Since I’m trying to take notes as I read, I thought I might as well post them here in the event anyone else without the time to read might enjoy a “cliffnotes” version. (Having said that, for anyone curious enough, the whole book is public domain and can be accessed on Hathi Trust.) This may be a little haphazard (most of my life is), but I’m going to start with what I sent recently to a dear friend and work forward from there in coming weeks:
In the chapter “Self-Control”…
“The most astonishing thing to me, in my experience of education, is, not a naughty child–that is quite to be expected, and never astonishes me–no! the most astonishing thing is, how many children, even religious ones, imagine that a duty is merely ‘something which had better be done, but it doesn’t much matter if it isn’t!’
Evidently they have never been trained, on these definite, physical, commonplace occasions, to realize that duty is a debt. You can easily see that if such a child comes to me at fifteen or sixteen, with this still to learn, it is as much a surprise to her that I expect Religion to result in common things, done at the right time, and in the right way, as it is a surprise to me that she should need this elementary training.”
I found this encouraging in that the common things done in the right time/way are part of Religion… that getting the dishes done before Matt comes home is a religious act, if you will, because it pleases God for me to bless my husband–just as much as reading my Bible or praying. Not that neglecting those responsibilities will do, either, but I can’t compartmentalize my life into religious and non-religious–God looks at all of it as a whole. I wish that I would have had that lesson down by 15 or 16.
And in the chapter “Happiness”…
“I have spoken of the joy of the animal spirits which comes by nature, and of the joys of the mind which we can ensure for ourselves; but what of the soul? What of the joy which made Rutherford in prison date his letters ‘from Christ’s Palace in Aberdeen’? The innermost joy of such communion with God, the golden ladder of the saints, is for saints alone to speak of; but there is a simple, childlike, everyday kind of happiness which each of us ought to find in our religion, which should be part and parcel of all or work and of all talk about it–which is by no means to be kept for Sundays and Bible-classes–I mean, the joy of feeling as you wake in the morning, not that this or that tangle or difficulty has to be faced, this or that toilsome drudgery to be wearily taken up again, but that, here is another day in which He Who ‘loves thee more than thy mother doth,’ will arrange all things for you, during which He will care for every step of your way, enjoy your success, and be sorry for your failure, give you things to do for Him, and be so close to you all day that loneliness or discouragement will be impossible for you.
Dr. Pusey gives us the true secret of a happy day when he says, ‘Thou wakest morning by morning with the love of God overstreaming thee. Give thyself for the day, thy thoughts, thy words, thy acts to His love; to speak words or to leave them unspoken, to do acts or to leave them undone, as thou thinkest in thy truest heart that thy God Who loves thee wills for thee.'”
Somehow, I forget God is near all day. I know that everyone struggles with remembering this, but I firmly believe that the clear mark of joy on a life is the result of having this mindset more often than not. I think that’s what it means in Nehemiah 8:10 to have “the joy of the Lord as our strength.” You minute-by-minute lean on the knowledge that ‘He Who loves thee more than thy mother doth’ cares for you minute-by-minute, provides grace for you minute-by-minute, is with you minute-by-minute.