Tag Archives: Reminder

Much Needed Affirmation

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The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
    silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

Psalm 12:6 (NRSVCE)

As I have confessed many times, I am not by temperament an optimist. In fact, as a child I didn’t get into fights with other kids because I was so good at beating myself up. The spiritual journey, if one genuinely follows Jesus, will always lead to dealing with the shit inside, and I use that word deliberately. We all have spiritual, emotional, relational, familial, experiential, and/or personal waste gumming up our souls and stinking things up inside.

I was fifteen or twenty years into my spiritual journey following Christ before Holy Spirit led me to the toxic waste that my internal critic had been creating in my soul with repetitive negative messages I’d been feeding myself without every being really conscious of it. As I processed my way through this, talked with wise counselors, and addressed the issue, I learned how much I need regular doses of healthy, affirming messages that counteract the negative self-talk that I can so easily slip into like a comfy old sweatshirt.

The first half of 2020 has been the most tumultuous period of time that I’ve experienced in my lifetime. COVID, lockdowns, social breakdown, economic downturn, violence, hypocrisy, and rage. Each morning as Wendy and I read the news we can’t believe what we’re reading. It’s enough to trigger my old inner critic to feed me all sorts of depressing messages of doom.

The lyrics of today’s short psalm feel like they could have been penned today. David is looking at the world around him, the generation he finds himself living in, and everything seems terrible. People are leaving the faith in droves, everyone speaks lies and false narratives to make themselves feel good, people demand their own way with arrogant pride, violence and vile acts are not just tolerated but celebrated, and the poor and needy are forgotten in the tumult.

Even as I write those words I have images of recent events coming to mind.

The reason for David’s song is found in the third verse. Amidst the seemingly endless stream of lies, hypocrisy, hatred, and false narratives David reminds himself that God and His promises are “pure” and have been refined by the fires of current events time and time again throughout history. David’s song is his own version of a much needed healthy, affirming reminder. God hasn’t abandoned or forsaken him. God’s promises are true. God has always faithfully protected, provided for, and delivered David from his enemies.

In the quiet this morning, I’m thankful for David’s little ditty. It reminds me that we are not the first generation of humanity to think everything was going to hell in a handbasket. I am not the only one who needs regular doses of healthy affirmation. God’s got this. I can believe it, and I can mentally run to that affirmation as many times as I need to today as I press on in the journey one more day.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Mnemonic Devices and Initiative

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.”
Numbers 15:38-39 (NIV)

On a cubicle wall, in an office outside of Minneapolis, there hangs an old pink sticky note. On this sticky note are three handwritten reminders that the resident of the cubicle scrawled during a call coaching session I had with him several years ago. He added a hand-drawn finger with a string on it to the list and stuck it up where he would see it next to his computer monitor while talking with customers on the phone.

The three reminders on the sticky note were service skills that I told him were top priorities for improving his service delivery when speaking with customers. Within a short period of time his consistency demonstrating the three behaviors vastly improved. Over time he became one of the most consistent service providers in the company. He credits the simple mnemonic device for its continuing power to remind him what to say to his customers.

Visual reminders and mnemonic devices work to bring to mind and memory things we don’t want to forget. God gave the ancient Hebrews multiple mnemonic devices to help them remember His commands, including the wearing of tassels on their robes specified in today’s chapter. These devices are still used and practiced today because they work.

This morning I’m reminded of the power of reminders, even as simple as the annoying buzzes, beeps, and pop-up notifications on my devices. They do work. But, like many things in life, I’ve discovered that they only work if you work them. I had coached the gentleman I referenced in Minnesota for many years before he finally took the initiative to scratch out his reminder list, put it up before him, and commit to behavior change. It would be easy for me to shake my head in frustration at his long delay, but I’m as guilty as anyone at saying that I want to do things, perhaps even writing them down on a list, and then not doing them.

James 1:22 comes to mind in the quiet this morning: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Mnemonic devices can remind me of what God’s Message says, but only my initiative can put those reminders into daily action.

 

The Enduring Power of a Simple Story

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’”
Matthew 18:32-33 (NIV)

I have been training groups and individuals in the art of Customer Service for almost a quarter century. Along that journey I’ve learned that students rarely remember all of the bullet points and service principles I teach them. They remember the stories. Just a year or so ago a woman came up to me prior to one of my classes. She had been in my class before and I asked her if she thought the content was beneficial.

Oh yeah, it was good,” she said dismissively. “But just make sure to keep telling all the stories. You tell the best stories!

She reminded me of a couple of front-line supervisors from another client who regularly showed up at the new hire service training class I did at their company each quarter. I asked them why they kept coming back. “We just want to hear you tell those stories again,” they would say with a laugh. “They never get old.”

If you haven’t noticed it, our culture has been recapturing the power of story in recent years. There are books, conferences, and entire consulting practices around story. This isn’t new. It’s eternal. The power of story is woven into the fabric of life. We were created in the image of The Great Story Teller. Story, metaphor, and word pictures communicate concepts in profound and emotional ways.

This is why Jesus told parables. They are powerful in their simplicity, profound in their impact.

In today’s chapter, Jesus tells an amazingly simple parable. A servant begs his master to forgive his deep indebtedness, which the master does. The servant then immediately goes out and rakes his own servant over the coals for some small debt. I have read this parable countless times, and it still resonates with each reading. How many times have I confessed my many failings and shortcomings to God and begged His forgiveness. How great a debt God has graciously forgiven. How then can I refuse to choose to forgive the injuries, slights, betrayals, insults, and inconsiderations of others?

This morning I’m doing a Google search of my heart, mind, life and relationships for anyone I’m holding something against, or anything I’ve refused to forgive.

All because of a simple story I read again.

 

 

We All Need a Reminder (or Two)

jotterTie them on your fingers as a reminder.
    Write them deep within your heart.
Proverbs 7:3 (NLT)

In my daily vocation I often find myself helping people introduce new habits in the way they talk to customers on the phone. Most basic service skills are easy to say and do, they just require conscious effort for a time. One of the mnemonic devices I encourage with people is the simple visual reminder: Take the three service skills that are most critical for you to demonstrate and make a small checklist on the side of your computer monitor. As you’re helping the customer, you see the checklist and it reminds you to do them in the moment. It’s a variation on the the string tied around your finger that Solomon used in today’s chapter.

Over the years I’ve used the same principle with particular thoughts and verses I want to remember from our chapter-a-day journey. For example, you’ll find a small laminated card on my bathroom mirror with 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. It reminds me each day to be quiet, productive and to be a positive example to those around me. On a 3×5 card in my leather work folio you’ll find Psalm 112 which reminds me of the kind of man I desire to be each day. I have these things memorized for the most part, but the visual cue creates an important reminder at critical moments in my day.

The verses on my mirror question my motivation as I’m shaving and getting ready in the morning. They often provides a necessary attitude adjustment before I head out into the world. I spy the card in my jotter when I pull out my folio in a client meeting. In a critical moment when I have the opportunity to be a positive influence on others, it silently reminds me to be mindful of my words and actions.

You never reach the age when simple mnemonic devices stop being useful in a million different ways. Wise King Solomon knew it as well. Tie that string around your finger. Stick that verse up where you’ll see it each day. We can all do with a little positive reminder.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Peter 1

Contemporary rendering of a poster from the Un...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So think clearly and exercise self-control. 1 Peter 1:13a (NLT)

As I read through these words from this morning’s chapter, I was reminded of the British war time posters that have become all the rage in recent years. Millions of the posters, which simply state “Keep Calm and Carry On” were made by the British Ministry of Information in 1939 to boost morale during World War II, but for an unknown reason the posters were only distributed in limited numbers and were little known. In 2000, the posters were rediscovered and have become a popular theme on all sorts of products and parodies.

Perhaps it’s the coupling of two simple commands that made my brain make the connection. “Think clearly and practice self-control” is just as relevant an admonishment in times of war or peace. It’s worthy of daily reminder.

We are bombarded with so much information and misinformation on a daily basis from an increasing number of media outlets and apps. Clear thinking is not always an easy task in the midst of it. Our chapter-a-day journey is one way that I try to feed my thinking with eternal, spiritual truths rather than momentary sound bytes. The daily perspective from God’s Message helps my mind and soul cut through the glut of useless and temporal noise.

Exercising self-control is an equally important command worthy of daily reminder. Wendy and I have been doing a lot of thinking about and discussion around the idea of appetites recently. A few weeks ago we spent a drive to Des Moines talking about the traditional “seven deadly sins” (lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth, pride, greed, envy) and made the observation that each of the “sins” are natural human appetites out of control. Likewise, the result of each is destructive to both self, intimacy with God and intimacy with others. Our journey towards maturity, wisdom and spiritual wholeness requires an ever and increasing measure of self-control over our human appetites and inclinations.

Today, I’m reminding myself to “think clearly and exercise self-control.”

 

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 6

Mezuzah at the entrance of the Museum am Juden...
Image via Wikipedia

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (MSG)

It is interesting the things that stand out about other countries and cultures when you visit. When I traveled to Israel several years ago, one of the first things that stood out to me were the little ornate boxes that were attached to seemingly every door frame of every house, shop or hotel room.

I learned very quickly that the box is called a mezuzah and it is hollow inside so that a scroll with God’s word could be treasured inside it. It was Israel’s way of being literally obedient to the command in Deuteronomy 6 to take God’s commands and “inscribe them on the doorpost of your homes.” As you go in and out of the house you will see the mezuza and you will remember Deuteronomy 6 and both God’s command and his promised blessing.

I bought a mezuzah in Israel and brought it back with me. I have hung it on the most used door in every home I’ve lived in since. When Wendy and I moved into our house I brought it with me. It’s been sitting on a bookshelf in the living room.  A while back I asked Wendy to pick out some verses she wanted placed in our mezuzah. I then picked out some verses of my own, but like many other things in life I shoved the “to-do” of hanging the mezuzah on the back burner. After reading today’s chapter, I can think of no better day to get off the dime and hang it.

There is nothing magical about the mezuzah. It’s simply a mnemonic device. It’s a reminder. As I go out my door and return each day in the hustle and bustle of life, my mind is usually buzzing to remember a million “urgent” things. The mezuzah reminds me in that moment that I need to give both my mind and my heart to remember those things that are eternally significant.

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Chapter-a-Day Numbers 15

Tassel making
Image via Wikipedia

God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them that from now on they are to make tassels on the corners of their garments and to mark each corner tassel with a blue thread. When you look at these tassels you’ll remember and keep all the commandments of God, and not get distracted by everything you feel or see that seduces you into infidelities. The tassels will signal remembrance and observance of all my commandments, to live a holy life to God. I am your God who rescued you from the land of Egypt to be your personal God. Yes, I am God, your God.” Numbers 15:37-41 (MSG)

Part of my job is to coach people to improve the customer service they deliver on the phone. Most often, the road to improvement means developing behavioral habits which have not been part of a person’s natural conversation. He or she must remember to say certain things inside their interaction with the customer.

To help people remember, I will often encourage them to use a mnemonic device – a visual aid that reminds them to say the appropriate phrase. For example, if people forget to thank customers for holding, I encourage them to put a small sticky note by the hold button on their phone with the word “thanks” written on it. When they reach over to hit the button, they see the sticky note and are reminded to thank the customer for holding.

These types of devices work. Visually seeing something that reminds us of something we’re supposed to do can help us remember. Even God knows that, and gave instructions for the people to sew tassels on their garments to remind them of God’s commands.

Small reminders can help us with much larger matters of faith, obedience, and spiritual discipline.

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 24

“Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. Luke 24:6b-7 (MSG)

This past week I wrote about my college age daughter refusing to heed my warning about the weather, and finding herself in a ditch in her new [used] car in the wee hours of a cold, wintery night. I have enjoyed hugging her this week, knowing that she is safe, and have fought the urge to remind her of my words. It would be so easy to say, “I told you so. Why didn’t you listen to my warning and wait until the storm passed?”

As I read today’s chapter I noticed a theme:

  • Angels remind the women at the tomb that Jesus told them exactly what was going to happen. vss. 4-8
  • Jesus, in frustration, reminds the disciples on the road to Emmaus that what happened to him was exactly what the prophets foretold. vs. 25
  • Jesus reminds the disciples that he revealed to them that the scriptures said he must suffer, die and be raised. vs. 45-46

As I read, I thought about my own experience as a father this week, and remembered the countless times my Earthly father and my Heavenly Father could have said “Didn’t I tell you? Weren’t you listening? Don’t you remember what I said?”

We are all just children in the never ending process of growing up. Maturity is revealed in each of us as we remember, via the hard way or the easy way, the lessons we’ve been taught and apply them to our current circumstances.

God, remind me of what I’ve been taught, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Give me the wisdom, grace, and maturity to apply those lessons as I walk through my day.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jakekrohn

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 40

Whenever the Cloud lifted from The Dwelling, the People of Israel set out on their travels, but if the Cloud did not lift, they wouldn't set out until it did lift. The Cloud of God was over The Dwelling during the day and the fire was in it at night, visible to all the Israelites in all their travels. Exodus 40:36-38 (MSG)

God is a god of metaphor. He expresses Himself in what He makes. He gives us word pictures that speak of deep, spiritual truths through every day objects. Bread and wine are  Christ's body and blood. The water of baptism is Jesus, the "Water of Life," who washes our sins away. The cloud and the fire in Exodus are metaphors God's presence. They were a constant reminder to the Israelites that God was with them.

Metaphorical reminders are a good thing. They keep us mindful of important truths.

This past Saturday, as we celebrated my daughter's wedding,  I wore a ring on my right hand. It was my grandfather's ring. I don't wear it a lot. I pull it out on special family occasions because it helps me to be mindful and grateful of those generations who have gone before us and made these celebrations possible. There is nothing magical about it. It's just a tangible reminder of loved ones who cleared the path for us.

The Israelites, wandering in the Sinai desert, needed tangible, visible reminder of His presence. I don't think we're any different in our own wanderings. We all need tangible reminders of God's truths as we make our own journeys through this life.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 136

His love endures forever. "Takes care of everyone in time of need. His love never quits." Psalm 136:25 (MSG)

Twenty-six times the psalmist penned "His love never quits" in this song. Each verse is tagged with the refrain reminding us that God's love endures forever.

Today, I needed to hear it all twenty-six times.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Chris Moncus Photo.