Devotional Thoughts

Truth is not virtue, but the lack of vices.

The most common and the most widely used deceit is the wish to deceive not other people, but yourself. And this kind of life is the most harmful.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. What I call ‘My wishes’ become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men’s thoughts or even suggested to me by devils. Eggs and alcohol and a good night’s sleep will be the real origins of what I flatter myself by regarding as my own highly personal and discriminating decision to make love to the girl opposite to me in the railway carriage. Propaganda will be the real origin of what I regard as my own personal political ideas. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.

—from Mere Christianity

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

Playwright George Bernard Shaw asserted, “A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

If you can take action and keep making mistakes, you gain experience. (That’s why President Theodore Roosevelt said, “He who makes no mistakes makes no progress.”)

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

Devotional Thoughts

A man comes into the world with his hands pushed into fists, as if he wants to say, “All this world is mine.” A man leaves this world with his palms open, as if to say, “Look, I take nothing with me.”

—The TALMUD

You should live your life as if you are ready to say good-bye to it at any moment, as if the time left you is some pleasant surprise.

—MARCUS AURELIUS

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

The Thinker LEGO sculpture by Nathan SawayaGreat point:

People very often do not accept the truth, because they do not like the form in which the truth is presented to them.

Great advice:

If you know the truth, or if you think that you know the truth, try to pass it on to the others, as simply as you can, along with the feeling of love for those persons to whom you pass it.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

(Cross-posted on my Data Guy (Me) blog.)

Are You Family or Food?

Although this is from a daily devotion built from C.S. Lewis’ works, the origin of this one is Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is a collection of missives, where an experienced demon is giving advice to his newbie nephew on how to cause the newphew’s mark to fail.

This quote seemed apropos of many men and women (especially within the political realm or aspects thereof):

We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons.

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

Are you family or food to people?

Hmmm…

You will find that people unwilling to work will either take advantage of others or be humiliated by them.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Notice, it does not say “unable to work.” Also, I suspect that the “or” should be “and/or.”

Based on what I’ve read of this book, Tolstoy is a kind person, so he isn’t trying to be judgmental, cruel, or harsh. Instead, true love means telling people the truth, and an unwillingness to work is not a characteristic you or I should want to have. It’s not good for us. It’s not good for others.

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

Every person’s life is filled with errors and negative experiences. But know this:

  • Errors become mistakes when we perceive them and respond to them incorrectly
  • Mistakes become failures when we continually respond to them incorrectly.

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

Wow

All of today’s devotional thoughts from Leo Tolstoy’s book deserve to be read:

The creation of the world would have been a very bad act were it right for rich people to live off the work of the poor, and yet think that they were the benefactors.

A stone falls on a pot—woe to the pot; a pot falls on a stone—woe to the pot; in every case, it is bad for the pot.

—The TALMUD

The pleasures of the rich are often acquired by the tears of the poor.

Wealth is created by the concentration of human labor; usually one people produce labor, and others concentrate it. This is called “the division of labor” by contemporary wise people.

There is something wrong with the creation of this world, because the rich people think that they are the benefactors of the poor, but in fact those rich are fed and dressed by the work of these poor and live in luxury created for them by the poor.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

I am not “anti-rich,” but I also would not be loving to them if I were to avoid noting the perilous condition they especially are in:

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24, ESV).

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

If you see that some aspect of your society is bad, and you want to improve it, there is only one way to do so: you have to improve people. And in order to improve people, you begin with only one thing: you can become better yourself.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Good leaders are attentive to ideas; they are always searching for them. And they cultivate that attentiveness and practice it as a regular discipline. As they read the newspaper, watch a movie, listen to their colleagues, or enjoy a leisure activity, they are always on the lookout for ideas or practices they can use to improve their work and their leadership.

If you desire to find good ideas, you have to search for them. Rarely does a good idea come looking for you.

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when doing arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pig headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

Modern science cannot study everything; without being supported by religion, science does not know what it should study.

If all knowledge were good, then pursuit of every sort of knowledge would be useful. But many false meditations are disguised as good and useful knowledge; therefore, be strict in selecting the knowledge you want to acquire.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

War in this world can be stopped not by the ruling establishment, but by those who suffer from the war. They will do the most natural thing: stop obeying orders.

The armed world and the wars it wages will be destroyed one day, but not by the kings or the rulers of this world. War is profitable for them. War will stop the moment the people who suffer from war fully understand that it is evil.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

I couldn’t force myself to select only a portion of today’s entry from Leo Tolstoy (please buy the book)…

After a long conversation, stop and try to remember what you have just discussed. Don’t be surprised if many things, sometimes even everything you have discussed, were meaningless, empty, and trivial, and sometimes even bad.

A stupid person should keep silent. But if he knew this, he would not be a stupid person.

—MUSLIH-UD-DIN SAADI

Only speak when your words are better than your silence.

—ARABIC PROVERB

For every time you regret that you did not say something, you will regret a hundred times that you did not keep your silence.

Kind people are never involved in arguments, and those who like to argue are never kind. Truthful words are not always pleasant, and pleasant words are not necessarily truthful.

—LAO-TZU

If you want to be a clever person, you have to learn how to ask cleverly, how to listen attentively, how to respond quietly, and how to stop talking when there is nothing more to say.

Many stupid things are uttered by people whose only motivation is to say something original.

—VOLTAIRE

If you have time to think before you start talking, think, Is it necessary to speak? Will what I have to say harm anyone?

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

Hmmm…

If your eyes become blinded by the sun, you do not say that the sun does not exist. In the same way, you should not say that God does not exist if your intellect is lost in trying to understand him.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

“Cato practiced the kind of public speech capable of moving the masses, believing proper political philosophy takes care like any great city to maintain the warlike element. But he was never seen practicing in front of others, and no one ever heard him rehearse a speech. When he was told that people blamed him for his silence, he replied, ‘Better they not blame my life. I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.’”

—PLUTARCH, CATO THE YOUNGER, 4

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

Of course God knew what would happen if they [creatures with free will] used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on. If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will—that is, for making a live world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings—then we may take it it is worth paying.

—from Mere Christianity

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

Our destinies in life will never be determined by our complaining spirits or high expectations. Life is full of surprises, and the adjustment of our attitudes is a lifelong project.

The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it to change.
The leader adjusts the sails.

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

—from Mere Christianity

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

“Remember that it’s not only the desire for wealth and position that debases and subjugates us, but also the desire for peace, leisure, travel, and learning. It doesn’t matter what the external thing is, the value we place on it subjugates us to another . . . where our heart is set, there our impediment lies.”

—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES , 4.4.1–2; 15

Diogenes, the famous Cynic, once said, “It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little.”

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

The second thing to get clear is that Christianity has not, and does not profess to have, a detailed political programme for applying ‘Do as you would be done by’ to a particular society at a particular moment. It could not have. It is meant for all men at all times and the particular programme which suited one place or time would not suit another. And, anyhow, that is not how Christianity works. When it tells you to feed the hungry it does not give you lessons in cookery. When it tells you to read the Scriptures it does not give you lessons in Hebrew and Greek, or even in English grammar. It was never intended to replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and sciences: it is rather a director which will set them all to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will give them all new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal.

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done,
Leave countless marks for good or ill ere sets the evening sun,
This is the wish I always wish, the prayer I always pray;
Lord, may my life help other lives it touches by the way.

Anonymous poem quoted in…

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

Day-by-day, may we not lose track of either of those thoughts…

Simplicity

Two great quotes from Leo Tolstoy today…and the second one could be used in the web site a friend and I just launched, Gospel.Claims.

When people speak in a very elaborate and sophisticated way, they either want to tell a lie, or to admire themselves. You should not believe such people. Good speech is always clear, clever, and understood by all.

And…

The greatest truth is the most simple one.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or xyou can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

I don’t mean to sound crass, but it helps if you like people. If you’re not a people person, that may be the first step you need to take. Look for value in every person. Put yourself in others’ shoes. Find reasons to like them. You won’t take an interest in people if deep down you care nothing about them. And if you care nothing about them, that flaw will always be a hindrance to your ability to lead people.

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice.

—from The Screwtape Letters

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

“We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing and to not let it upset our state of mind—for things have no natural power to shape our judgments.”

—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.52

In other words, it is possible to hold no opinion about a negative thing. You just need to cultivate that power instead of wielding it accidentally. Especially when having an opinion is likely to make us aggravated. Practice the ability of having absolutely no thoughts about something—act as if you had no idea it ever occurred. Or that you’ve never heard of it before. Let it become irrelevant or nonexistent to you. It’ll be a lot less powerful this way.

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

A child meets another child with a smile, displaying his friendly attitude and joy. This same behavior lives in all sincere people. But very often, a man from one nation already hates a man from another nation, and is ready to cause him sufferings and even death, even before he meets him. Those who create these feelings in nations commit a terrible crime!

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

How does this apply to today?

You will find that a good many Christian-political writers think that Christianity began going wrong, and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage. Now this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a ‘historical Jesus’ to be found by clearing away later ‘accretions and perversions’ and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a ‘historical Jesus’ on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward a new ‘historical Jesus’ on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold. In the first place they all tend to direct men’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each ‘historical Jesus’ is unhistorical. The documents say what they say and cannot be added to; each new ‘historical Jesus’ therefore has to be got out of them by suppression at one point and exaggeration at another, and by that sort of guessing (brilliant is the adjective we teach humans to apply to it) on which no one would risk ten shillings in ordinary life, but which is enough to produce a crop of new Napoleons, new Shakespeares, and new Swifts, in every publisher’s autumn list.

—from The Screwtape Letters

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

Three temptations torture people: sexual desire, pride, and lust for wealth. All the misfortunes of mankind come from these three cravings. Without them, people would live in happiness. But how can we get rid of these terrible illnesses? … Work on yourself and improve yourself; this is the answer. Start the improvement of this world from within.

—F. ROBERT DE LAMENNAIS

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

Remember how passionately you yearned in the past for many of the things which you hate or despise now.

Remember how many things you lost trying to satisfy your former desires. The same thing could happen now, with the desires which excite you at present. Try to tame your present desires, calm them; this is most beneficial, and most achievable.

A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Peter Sekirin)

“I don’t agree with those who plunge headlong into the middle of the flood and who, accepting a turbulent life, struggle daily in great spirit with difficult circumstances. The wise person will endure that, but won’t choose it—choosing to be at peace, rather than at war.”

—SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 28.7

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

Dr. Allan Fromme quipped, “People have been known to achieve more as a result of working with others than against them.”

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

Today’s Devotional Thoughts

“Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice.”

—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.18.21

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

If you desire to mine the gold of good intentions in others, then forgiveness is essential. And it’s rarely a one-time thing. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”

— The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell

Our morning prayer should be that in the Imitation: Da hodie perfecte incipere—grant me to make an unflawed beginning today, for I have done nothing yet.

A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works by C.S. Lewis