Rembrandt, Jacob blessing the children of Joseph
”Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” --Aristotle
This week, I find myself up to my eyeballs in responsibilities: a final edit of my new book coming out in January with Nathan! (I hope you will love it and be encouraged with our story.) A Wedding trip to Oxford, sending two of my adult kids from our home to the UK and helping the pack for a year. Deadlines, arrangements, and life. So, I was pondering what to write this week about godly character and found a favorite piece of mine from the past that I hope you will enjoy. Reading it made me love Rembrandt all over again--and Aristotle and character training. O
Rembrandt became a master of light and a detailed painter, exquisite faces by training, practice, and years and years of painting, over and over and over again--practice. And so it is with any craft, skill, degree or accomplishment.
However, it is also true of character and a Christian testimony--
the character that is habituated to improving, developing integrity by practice, stretching to work hard, to do the best, to exceed expectations comes from daily practice and personal integrity.
Those whose ideals are set high and aim, each day to pursue those ideals will have the opportunity to become excellent in any field.
This comes from an inner grid, the way one learns to see life and expects himself to live. We called this "self-government," when we trained excellence of character into the very fiber of our children's souls.
Last week, I was in California for a week for Joy's graduation. I had many leisure hours to be with 3 of my children to discuss life, to see what they were thinking. Seeing them care greatly about issues of morality, faith; watching them understand the need to uphold God's character in the market places of life, hearing convictions and desires to impact their arenas for Christ, hearted this mama's soul.
Being together like this and discussing these important issues was reminiscent of all of the years we discussed truth, history, morality, the need for obedience, personal righteousness and a stewardship of the gospel. Their adult hearts were shaped by endless days of soul investment in our home when they were little. God would take my fish and loaves and through His spirit, stir their hearts. It is possible to watch God transform lives of little ones into adults who care deeply about the things of God. Passion, inspiration, obedience, a love for truth is learned by our children, family, friends, from seeing it modeled and being captured by the life coming from a real live person--you!
It has made me realize, again, that I would so love to help encourage, inspire, train women to own their lives by learning how to establish foundations of these important convictions in the lives of their own children. Consequently, Monday, I will be announcing a summer plan for my blog that I hope will give a focus for my blog and for those of you who want to participate, to enter into some training and encouragement of your children in your own home.
I have been surrounded by mediocrity, compromise and substandard Christians in several public arenas and personal situations lately. Our children have experienced the same in their worlds. I have asked myself, with the image of the living God imprinted upon my very being, shouldn't I, and all true believers, be able to call forth excellence and integrity as a reflection of Him in my life.
"As a man sows, so shall he reap." Galatians 6:7
Yet, excellence and integrity is a personal issue.
One can only become this way through a personal commitment, a vision of oneself, and a decision that says,
"Regardless of what is happening around me, I will be the best I can be, work the hardest I am able, pursue the highest standards--especially for my personal life where no one but God sees--because I have been bought with a price and have His Holy Spirit residing within. So my worship of Him requires that I pursue the standard of His Holiness as an affirmation of His reality in my life."
Whether as a mother training the character of children, filling their minds with excellent writers, artists, thinkers, or as a woman being a steward of every aspect of her life, one can only become excellent by stretching, determining to obey His still small voice and then using every resource to pursue bringing His light and imprint upon this world.
This labor of excellence, personally and in the lives of our children, may/will take many long years--but if we are not committed to pursuing whatever it takes to build this excellence, then what hope does our future have--and even more, how can we represent Him, who has given all?
Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." We are called to become leaders that others can follow and emulate.With every year of faith, there should be more of Him reflecting through our lives. It is not a choice, it is a call on our lives. We cannot say, "I am a Christian, but I think I will make "c's or d's" in my character choices. We aim high because the love of Christ compels us.
More on Monday and the days ahead--but I have just been pondering--why are so many believers falling so short of His best?
I'm not talking about being a Pharisee--but, talking about what we should expect as royalty--children of the most high God. We have set our standards far too low....
What do you see in your circles?
Do you see the holiness of God being portrayed through the choices and behavior of Christians that you know?
What do you see as the underlying issue in such a state of compromise and mediocrity in many Christian circles where believers often participate in the same worldly activities as non-believers with no conscience toward what God desires of His children?