Traits of a Godly Person - Goodness

I am skipping from 2 Peter 1 to Galatians 5. I thought it would be useful to talk about goodness while we were still mulling over the idea of virtue. A question comes to mind when looking at these two words side by side. Can a person be virtuous without being good? Can a person be good without being virtuous? It seems to me these two words are very closely related, almost like two peas in a pod. Each one is distinctly its own thing, but they are two parts of a larger entity, which I will call morality. Can we truly have morality without having virtue and goodness?

Image by  Ruslana Babenko  from  Pixabay

Image by Ruslana Babenko from Pixabay

Websters Online Dictionary defines the noun goodness in this way:

1 - the quality or state of being kind, honest, generous, helpful, etc

2 - the quality or state of being useful or effective

From a philosophical perspective, the word goodness and the word virtue are two distinctly different things. A person can be virtuous, meaning they have the qualities of courage, diligence, chastity and so on without being a good person. A person can also be virtuous, but not necessarily good at it. For instance, if a person bravely runs into a burning building to save someone, we would say he has the virtue of bravery, but if he trips and falls and dies in the fire and never saves the person, we would also say he wasn’t very good at following through on that bravery. Even though, I am married to a philosophy professor, I have no desire to go any deeper into the intricacies of virtue and goodness, other than to point out they are two distinct things and one does not necessarily depend on the other.

For this post, I want to stick to the idea of what goodness looks like as a state of being and as a state of doing.

1 - Goodness as a State of Being

It is my personal opinion that in order to be good and express acts of goodness, we must first be good inside. Think about acts that we would deem good: things like kindness, helpfulness, honesty and generosity typically grow out of thoughts that revolve around kindness, helpfulness, honesty and generosity.

Of course there are people who are deceptive and are not truly doing things out of goodness. They are manipulating the world around them by being good, in order to get something, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling like a good person. For this series, I am speaking to people who truly desire to be good and do good things for the sake of the gospel, or for the sake of doing good.

Image by  skeeze  from  Pixabay

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Let me interject here, that the Bible is clear on our goodness:

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become
worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
— Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)
Image by  Sarah Richter  from  Pixabay

Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

Paul was writing to the Jews at the church in Rome, however, he included everyone in this group, both the Jews and the Greeks, or in other words, Gentiles. Anyone who wasn’t a Jew was a Gentile. So, you see, we are all sinners. No one is righteous. No one is truly good. Sure lots of people do good things and live their entire lives with honesty, kindness, helpfulness and generosity, but for the sake of this study, the trait of a Godly person is that it is a trait that makes him/her Godly, or in other words, more like Jesus. The only one who can truly make us more like Him, is Jesus Himself. That is part of why Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit. This goodness is His fruit. In order for us to live in a state of goodness, we must immerse ourselves in Jesus; in His words; in His spirit.

You might be asking yourself, “How in all of creation, then, are we really supposed to be this goodness? How are we supposed to live in a state of being good?”

I am so glad you asked, and I am even more glad that Jesus, through His spirit and His inspired Word, gave us a clue. Let’s look two more verses.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (ESV)

God has given us clear direction on how to get our mind going down the goodness track. Every word and action begins in our minds. What we spend our time thinking about will show in our actions. If we think about how many things are wrong with the world, with other people and even with ourselves, we will be anxious and frustrated. If we think about past mistakes and wrong choices, we will be consumed with guilt. However, if we think on these things, as Paul encouraged us to do, we will be more likely to be good people.

2 - Goodness as a State of Doing

Frankly, what good does it do to be good and not act on it. If we are truly good, this should lead us to take action. Those actions will include three areas: goodness towards our God, goodness towards others and goodness towards ourselves. Let’s look at each of these briefly.

Goodness Towards Our God

How is it that we can be good towards God? Just as we choose to commit wrong, we also can choose to commit good. Doing good towards God, would be refraining from choices to sin, committing time to prayer, study of His word and worship. In addition, doing good towards God would include the simple act of thankfulness. Have you ever tried to worship or pray when you are angry and upset? It does not work. However, as soon as we humble ourselves and begin to nurture a thankful heart we change and we bring honor and glory to our God.

Goodness Towards Others

It is easy to be good to people who are good to us, but what about people who are negative, ungrateful and demanding? Does that sound like anyone in your life? I think we all have at least one person in our lives like that. It is easy to hold a grudge; to begin to not like that person, and eventually to not do good to and for that person. God’s Spirit in us, is able to produce good acts, even when we don’t feel like it or want to be good, but we have to choose to let Him have his way and bring to mind verses like those in Philippians and others. A big chunk of exhibiting all of these Godly traits we have been talking about is yielding to His Spirit in our lives and in our circumstances. As we think on good things, acting with goodness towards others, the choice to be and do good will become more natural and Spirit driven.

Goodness Towards Ourselves

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

In all honesty, this is probably one of the areas I struggle with the most. For me, it is easier to be good to others: customers at work, my family, friends, and others, but when it comes to myself, I am my own worst critic. My husband has this problem too. I have definitely softened towards myself over the years as the Spirit has brought me light on the topic of who I really am: created in His image, a royal priesthood, beloved and other wonderfully descriptive words. I still have days where I look in the mirror and am convince I am a cartoon character and should be residing in a comic book. I also have days where I feel so completely inept and unworthy, but these thoughts are not from God. (See my fiction piece The Tower, for a look inside my own struggling soul).

It is important that we give ourselves grace on a regular basis. We are not perfect. We are on a journey, just like everyone. It is also important to treat ourselves with goodness. Look in the mirror and thank yourself for getting rest the night before, showering to get clean and drinking lots of water. Make a mental list of your good traits; those beautiful eyes, pretty collar bones or shapely legs. Give thanks to the One who made you with an incredibly creative mind that desires to please Him.

There can never be enough good in the world, so let’s be sure we are doing what we can to make goodness, not only a state of being, but a state of doing.

Have a great day!



How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind

Most of us are aware, the holidays can be an incredibly, busy time. As women, the bulk of the preparations for holiday gatherings fall on our shoulders. Things might be different for you, but I know for me I am the one who makes the holidays happen. I do the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the meal planning, the wrapping and the packing when we travel out of town. I am also the one to clean up after the gatherings, take down the decorations, get rid of the torn paper, ribbons and bows and unpack and do laundry when we come back into town. This is also a busier time of year at a university bookstore as we are checking in students’ rental books, getting in books for next term and making those available for students who want to buy their books early.

Pixabay

Pixabay

You might wonder why I do it all. Why don’t I delegate some of the holiday responsibility or just not do some of the typical holiday activities? Realistically, I do it because I want to. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. However, I do understand that not everyone feels this way. In fact, contrary to Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year.

There are numerous factors that can make the Christmas season more of a burden, rather than a delight. Financial strain, job loss, illness, family tensions, influences from our pasts and the loss of a loved one, can all make the upcoming festivities seem more like a chaotic, commercial filled nightmare.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, the meaning of Christmas is clear. This is the time we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ, the one we refer to as our Savior and King. Knowing this and believing in Him are key to understanding the Christ part of Christmas. However, our society celebrates Christmas without Christ. The gift giving, family gatherings and well wishes are a way of showing love and of reconnecting with those who are important to us.

I’d like to offer a few ways to get through the holidays without losing your mind, even if you don’t celebrate because of Christ. I will do another post, specifically to that next week.

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Pixabay

1 - Pick and Choose

You honestly do not have to do everything. Figure out which things you absolutely love about Christmas and which ones don’t matter as much. I used to send out Christmas cards. I still love receiving cards in the mail, but I have found that is one thing, at this point in my life, that I had to let go of. As much as I love this tradition, I don’t have the time to commit to this holiday task. Perhaps you could do without all the decorating; a single Christmas tree in your window is as much decor as you need. Don’t worry about lights in the windows or a Better Homes and Gardens tree in every room of the house. Love baking, but feeling stressed out? Pick out one or two favorites to make. Let’s face it, often we just plain overdo.

Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Set Boundaries

You don’t have to go to every holiday party you are invited to. You also don’t have to be at every family gathering. If you have family out of town this can get a little bit overwhelming. For years after we were married my spouse and I traveled back to NY and WI every Christmas. We’d do four or five days in one place, come home for two days and then go to the other place for another four or five days. My spouse being a professor and homeschooling our girls made it easy to make this sort of commitment, but it was hard! We went through bouts of stomach bugs, snowstorms and not being able to have our own Christmas traditions. It was great for our kids in that they built an amazing relationship with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but there did come a time when we said, we couldn’t do it any more. Now we usually go to one place for Thanksgiving and the other for New Years, that way we are home for Christmas with plenty of time in between to regroup and prepare for our own holiday celebrations.

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Pixabay

3 - Take Care of Yourself

At the holidays we tend to get less sleep and eat more foods that, while delicious, are not necessarily good for us. Extra calories in cookies, rich high fat meals and eating out more when shopping and party going make us feel sluggish and tired. Those types of food need to be eaten in moderation and we still need to make good choices by eating enough fruits and veggies, as well as drinking lots of water.

In addition, make sure you are getting sufficient rest, as well as exercise. I am preaching to the choir here, everyone. I struggle with getting exercise at other times of the year, but the holidays and the cold, drab weather make it even harder, but we all know that exercise is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health as well.

Investing in your hobbies or learning something new can also be good for you. Knitting, painting, playing music or doing puzzles can give your mind a much needed break from the stressors of the season.

If you have the time and resources you can also invest in your well being by scheduling a massage, a manicure or taking yourself out to do something you enjoy, like a movie or a visit to a coffee shop to read a book.

Pixabay

Pixabay

4 - Be Grateful

No matter where you are at in life, you have things you can be thankful for. Food, clothes, heat, a bed to sleep in and a pillow to lay your head on. Things might be difficult for you this Christmas, but you can still find things to be thankful for, if you look. Every morning I am able to get out of bed and stand in a hot shower, I am thankful. During loss, and difficulty gratitude can make the difference between thriving and floundering,

These are just a few ideas of how to get through the holidays without losing your mind. I hope you find these helpful.

Do you have lots to do at this time of year? Be sure to take time to relax and enjoy the season.



Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

Pixabay - shower

This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well.