Character Qualities

Character Quality: Articulate

Character Quality: Articulate with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Articulate

 

It is simply not enough to know what we believe, we must be able to communicate our convictions, our passions, and why we believe to others. Communicating is key to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to others. The message of the cross is simple and life saving.

There are many things that we need to be able to communicate to others. Each of us has been given a voice. We need to use that voice to speak up. We need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We need to speak up for what is right. We need to speak up for truth, mercy, and honesty.

It can be scary to speak up, to take a stand, to interject our voice into a circumstance. It can be intimidating to dare to suggest forgiveness or even justice, to uphold truth and righteousness.

Teaching our kids to speak at appropriate times, with insight and intelligence should be a priority. Training them to listen first before asking questions and to think before they speak is an important part of child discipleship. It is imperative that our kids practice the art of conversation and even debate. They need to witness hearty disagreements, watch individuals defend their perspectives and opinions, and yet still love each other and keep the relationship intact.

The best way I’ve found to achieve the goal of preparing your child for conversations, confrontations, and conflicts is…drum roll please…everyday interaction. Most people would probably say that the flippant and random conversations they have with their children are pretty meaningless. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Whenever you engage with your child in conversation, you are teaching them. Every conversation they witness, they are studying and learning the rules of this complicated art form. They are learning from what they are personally involved in with your family along with what they are watching on TV and the movies.

So here’s yet another reason to make those family dinners a reality. It’s not just mealtime—nourishment for the body, but it is also nourishment for the mind and soul. It’s an opportunity to discuss the day, current events, and ideas. Some of these conversations will happen naturally, but others will take more work with intentional questions and planned topics.

Becoming articulate is a life-long skill that is to be constantly cultivated. The basics should be taught at home within the context of family all through the day and of course around the table.

Why do your children ask you a million questions? Because when they watch conversations and they notice that questions are the tools adults use to continue communicating. They are merely experimenting with what they have observed when they ask you questions. If you look them in the eyes and really listen to them, guess what? They will practice that also.

It is important for our kids to hear good questions, learn body language and good eye contact. But our kids are also listening to what we are talking about. What do we say? What are the subjects of our conversations? What is important to us? Do you major on the minors or do we talk about things that really matter? Being able to articulate our beliefs, ideas, opinions, and questions is very important. Our kids need to learn how to do this, and you are their example—hopefully life’s best teacher.

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Character Quality: Endurance

Character Quality: Endurance

Character Quality: Endurance

 

As the forerunner of Christ, his purpose was clear. As prophesized by Isaiah in the Old Testament John the Baptist was to, “prepare the way of the Lord.” John’s life purpose was to point the people to Christ. At first he didn’t know who the Christ was.

I think I could argue that it should have been easier for John. He was focused on his task, he sacrificed for it; he was faithful in his actions. But none of it was easy. John lived in the wilderness. The people came to see him there to hear him preach. He spoke the truth and called his audience to repentance. The leaders were critical of him, but he continued on. He endured.

Then when Jesus, the Christ came to be baptized, John recognized him as the Lamb of God and declared Him to be the one to “take away the sin of the world.” Humbly he baptized Jesus and then encouraged his disciples to follow Him.

But just because Jesus appeared didn’t mean that John disappeared. John continued on in his ministry of declaring truth. He continued to teach in the wilderness. His purpose hadn’t changed. He kept on teaching the people about their need for Christ.

John endured the wilderness, its heat and loneliness. He endured criticism from the religious elite. He endured because he kept his focus clear and sharp. He didn’t waiver. He didn’t compromise. He didn’t relent. He set his mind. He focused and no matter what happened, he continued to fulfill the charge given him as the voice calling in the wilderness. After he had baptized Jesus, he told his followers to follow Jesus he continued to stand upon the truth. He confronted.

We are not called to quick, easy or convenient. We are called to focus and go forward faithfully no matter what. We, like John, must keep our eyes focused on Christ. We must not allow the distractions of everyday, the mundane responsibilities, the full schedules to blur our focus. In doing so we will face challenges and difficulties; these we much endure. Our focus will grant us the ability to endure as we allow the power of the Holy Spirit and the peace which transcends all understanding to permeate our words and actions.

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Character Quality: Endurance

Character Quality: Thoughtful

 

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Character Quality: Thoughtful

There are several examples in Scripture of gift-giving. Elijah wanted to thank the Shunamite woman after she blessed him by adding a room for the prophet. Mary brought an alabaster jar of expensive nard to anoint the Lord Jesus. She gave Him her best, to honor him.

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are probably the three most well-known gifts in the Bible. And they are part of the central story of the Bible when God gives mankind the greatest gift of all time, His Son. The whole story is full of miracles, full of grace, full of love. The story is for the whole world.

Here’s a recap. In the fullness of time, the God who exists outside of time interjected Himself into time. An angel appeared to Mary who, even as a young girl, had found favor in the sight of God. He extended her an opportunity to carry His Son, to be the mother of Jesus. She asked a logistical question and then responded humbly, “May it be unto me as you have said.”

Mary was found to be with child, which was a disgrace since she and Joseph were only betrothed, not actually married. As the whispers around town multiplied, the Roman government issued a decree that all the people should be taxed. Imagine that, God used taxation for His glorious plan.

Joseph and Mary left their hometown, their families, everything familiar, and the whispers to begin their journey to the city of David. Along the way God bonded them as they depended on each other during the arduous journey.

They arrived in Bethlehem just in time for Jesus’ birth. With no reservations and no rooms available at the local inns, they welcomed the Savior of the world in a humble stable. God sent an affirmation of His blessing on them and His Son by way of a star, which shinned brightly over the small town and the place of His birth.

Just as the Angel had visited Mary and then Joseph, Angels announced Jesus’ birth in the countryside to the shepherds. In the darkness of night, they heralded His arrival and invited the shepherds to visit the baby King. The shepherds didn’t have anything tangible to bring to the child or His parents, but they worshipped Him on bended knee.

Far away in the East, there were Magi who studied the stars and noticed a new one. Seeking to understand, to make sense of the new star, they sought answers. Through study they found prophecies from the Old Testament that the Messiah, a King would be announced by a star. Convinced that the star they had noticed was the star, they traveled to see the King.

But they didn’t come empty handed. They came bearing gifts, expensive gifts, practical gifts, thoughtful gifts. They brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts have a variety of implications and uses. Some of them are medical. Frankincense for example is used for arthritis, but I don’t think that was a concern in this situation. Myrrh was traditionally used in preparation for burial. Gold of course has a variety of uses and high value. We don’t know why each of these three gifts were chosen, but we do know that they were gifts that would traditionally be given to royalty. These gifts were an acknowledgement and affirmation of who Jesus is, the King of kings.

It is important to train our children to be thoughtful and to give thoughtfully. This means that we model our giving as we tithe and as we give to others. We should give as unto the same King as the Magi gave, giving our best. We shouldn’t give in a stingy way or in a resentful way or in a reluctant way. We should give generously as unto the Lord. When our children have opportunities to share and give we should help them to think of the other person. What might they enjoy? How would it honor God? All of our gift giving should honor Him who alone is Worthy.

(Tradition has numbered the ‘wise men’ based on the three gifts, but we don’t actually know how many of them there were. We know more than one, but there could have been only two but certainly more than three is also possible. Additionally, there is debate on when the Magi arrived with their gifts. Timing is thought to be anywhere from almost immediately to a time which would have made Jesus two years of age. Neither of these issues is of eternal significance, but are important to know.)

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Character Quality: Considerate

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Character Quality: Considerate

Unnamed. Unknown. Unidentified. But not unimportant.

In II Kings 4:8-37 her story is recounted. Yes, her story. It is significant to note that women play a key role in God’s story. Women are not mere bystanders or extras, but rather strong, courageous, determined, and pivotal characters. They make decisions, choose sides, stand up, speak up, and lead. Women as wives, sisters, daughters, and friends influence at best, manipulate at worst.

The Shunammite woman is an example, though unnamed, of a strong woman at her best. She was married but childless. However she had clearly chosen against bitterness and had put her energies into serving others. It is evident in the story that she wasn’t self-centered. She had not allowed the fact that she had no children to drag her down into the pit of despair. She had moved on and chosen to go forward.

The biblical account says that the prophet Elisha and his servant Gehazi came through her area regularly. In response she, a ‘prominent women’, invited them to eat at her house. After some time she had an idea. Scripture simply states: “She said to her husband, ‘I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. Please let us make a walled upper chamber…when he comes to us, he can turn in there.’”

Wow. She invited him in, recognized an ongoing need, formulated a solution, presented it to her husband who consented and then carried out her plan. The Shunammite woman was considerate of those around her. In this story she not only considered the needs of the prophet Elisha, but also the authority of her husband. She didn’t run ahead of him, but rather came under him as she boldly laid out her suggestion.

This is a powerful example of a woman who had tremendous influence and effect on her situation. Her act of consideration is a clear indication of her outward and even upward focus. She wasn’t thinking of herself, she wasn’t selfishly motivated. She was simply, purely responding to the prophet’s need of a place to rest. A simple need, a simple solution.

Often our ability to recognize the needs of others and respond to them is impeded by our own selfishness. We focus on what we want and we are unable to see the needs of others. Or we allow a past hurt or loss or disappointment cloud our view, we can’t see past our own pain. We lean into self, into loneliness, into despair. We miss opportunities to see and respond to others needs, opportunities that would bring healing to our own souls.

So, what is obstructing your view? What is it that you can’t seem to see past? What wounding or failure or let down? What is holding you hostage? We are all surrounded by needs. God has given us each other to meet them. Whether they are financial, emotional, material, or social. God has given us each other. Our needs go unmet when we choose to be inwardly focused instead of upwardly focused.

Being considerate is a deliberate choice to live with your eyes wide open to the need of others determined to respond. It means that we choose against allowing our enemy to discourage us into believing that we don’t matter, that we can’t make a difference. We do and we can and others are depending on us.

Let us be courageously considerate. Let us look around us for opportunities to honor God as we serve those He has put in our path.

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Character Quality: Sensitive

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Character Quality: Sensitive

All character qualities are interdependent. To pursue any of them requires the pursuit of all of them.

Being kind, gentle, selfless, attentive, prayerful, and respectful, as well as humble, flexible, generous, confident, nurturing, and genuine all contribute to a person’s ability to be sensitive. Since being sensitive is all about paying attention to others, it begins with being selfless. Selfishness is often the obtuse barrier to sensitivity. Wanting something our own way inhibits our ability to be sensitive to others around us. We spend so much time taking care of ourselves that we don’t even notice any one around us.

A sensitive person walks into a room fully aware of others. They pay attention to others and consider their needs. They enter wanting to encourage someone, to listen to someone, to help someone. When they are with others, their focus is the other person. They realize the importance of active engagement with those who are left out, criticized, or shy. A sensitive person isn’t insistent on their way, their opinion, or their interests. Rather, they are genuinely interested in what others have to say.

Sensitivity is work. It is much easier to be insensitive, to be brash, domineering, and thoughtless. Sometimes the call to be sensitive can be confused with being passive or even a push over, possibly weak. In fact, being sensitive isn’t for wimps. It takes strength to be sensitive and to lay aside what I want to do or say because of someone else.

As a Christian we have daily opportunities to practice sensitivity. These are moments to listen to and submit to the Holy Spirit of God who is alive in us. When it comes to our interactions with others, this means that we don’t think of ourselves first. Instead, we think of others before ourselves. When it comes to the Holy Spirit, it means that we allow Him to lead us, that we don’t ignore that still, small, voice and His promptings, His guidance, and His direction. When we choose to be sensitive to Him, it affects our every thoughts, words, and actions. Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit changes everything.

Jeremiah was sensitive to the needs of God’s people. He didn’t insist on his way or his comfort or his position. He was concerned about others. This required that he be selfless, intentional, kind, confident, strong, and dependable. You can read more about Jeremiah in the Old Testament book by the same name. Jeremiah was sensitive not only to the people around him, but also to God. When we practice being sensitive to God, then being sensitive to others comes more naturally.

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Character Quality: Selflessness

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Character Quality: Selflessness

Jesus is the embodiment of selflessness. His whole life here on earth was lived wholly and completely to the honor and glory of His Father. At no time is there evidence that Jesus thought of Himself. His focus was clear, His motives pure, His resolve determined.

Time and time again Jesus said, “I have not come to do my own will, but the will of my Father who sent Me.” Throughout His time in ministry He deferred to His Father in Heaven. Jesus lived and died completely under the authority of His Father. He lived to glorify the Father in all things.

Paul wrote about His selflessness beautifully and clearly in Philippians 2:

“If there is any encouragement from being united to Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any tenderness or compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, being one is spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being found in human likeness, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knew should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Here we have the perfect example of that we are called to be, how we are called to live. Notice the imperatives:

Be like-minded

Be one in spirit and purpose

Do nothing with selfish ambition or vain conceit

Consider others better than yourself

Look to the interests of others

Have the same attitude of Christ

Then in the example of Christ we see:

He made Himself nothing

He took the nature of a servant

He humbled Himself

He became obedient to death

These examples of Christ’s selflessness are taken directly from His last 24 hours in the culmination of His ministry and life: His death on the cross. The night before His crucifixion, at the last supper where He instituted the Lord’s Supper, He first washed His disciples’ feet. This represented an extraordinary act of selflessness as the job was usually relegated to the lowest of servants. Foot washing was the job no one wanted. It was stinky, messy and humiliating. Though appreciated and necessary, it was also assumed and taken for granted. Foot washers weren’t especially respected and revered. No one thanked them. No one tipped them. No one wanted to be them.

But Jesus seeing that there wasn’t’ a servant assigned to the task and that none of the disciples were volunteering for the task decided to do it Himself. The rest were taken back to see the Master having taken off His outer robe-His superiority, girded Himself with a towel representing His service and pouring water into a basin, representing Him pouring out His life for us.

As if those things were not enough what He did next must have truly astounded them, it did Peter. Jesus knelt, without announcement, probably more naturally than anyone would have expected and began doing the unexpected. Their conversations must have turned to hushed whispers. He seemed very comfortable in the position, not hesitant or aggravated, not resentful or bitter. He was just doing what needed to be done.

Strange thing though, as Jesus started out around the room, no one volunteered to take over. No one insisted that it wasn’t necessary. Peter came the closest when he protested; he seems to have been put out at the idea. But Jesus’ explanation assured Peter of the importance of the act and he consented, but perhaps more contemplatively than the rest. He certainly had them thinking.

Then Jesus came to Judas. And He began to cry. It didn’t go unnoticed, but it did cause some confusion. Judas wasn’t exactly endearing, not exactly sweet, not exactly generous. Not exactly. They had seen Jesus’ tears before, several times, but those times made sense. This didn’t. Judas seemed uncomfortable. He fidgeted. He fumbled. He resisted making eye contact, though Jesus looked up at him several times, tears dripping off His chin.

Selflessness does what the moment, the situation, the circumstance, the relationship, the challenge demands. It doesn’t consider it’s own comfort or desire. It doesn’t demand attention or credit or reward. It responds to need, to serving, to washing, cleaning, working, and giving. Selflessness does. It acts.

As moms we can best teach our children selflessness by being selfless. It means we live it out every day. It means we joyfully embrace our roles as nurturers and teachers and care givers of our families. It means we take our cue from the Lord Jesus and seek to glorify Him in all things. Folding laundry, cooking dinner, ironing, sorting socks, changing diapers, driving the family taxi, staying up late to talk. It means we lay aside our expectation and our schedules and choose to serve with our whole hearts.

The world says that that means we allow others to take advantage of us, to abuse us, to treat us with disrespect. They say that we have to put ourselves first. But I don’t find that in Scripture. It doesn’t say “Seek first your own desires and dreams”. No, it doesn’t. It says, “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven and all these things will be added”. There is an admonishment with a promised reward. When we seek Him first it benefits us and gives us all we need to confidently and selflessly serve others. It was Christ’s habit of going ‘early in the morning’ to spend time with His Father that granted Him the strength to wash the disciples feet as an example to us to do likewise.

It glorified the Father for the Son to die and pay the sin penalty as the perfect Lamb of God. It glorifies the Father for the name of Jesus Christ to be confessed as Lord.

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Character Quality: Introspective

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Character Quality: Introspective

 

“…this man came to Jesus by night….” By night. He didn’t come in the daytime. He came under cover of darkness. He came in the shadows. But he came honestly seeking, asking, considering. He wanted to know for himself.

When my oldest son was about eight, he participated in a children’s play called, “Nick at Night”. It retold the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who sought out Jesus after the sun went down. Scripture tells us that he was a ruler of the people, respected. It seems that Nicodemus took his position seriously, he wanted to lead well; he came to see if he could get some answers.

Jesus was causing a stir, creating controversy. His ministry had only just begun and already He was working miracles and cleansing the temple. Already lines were being drawn and sides were forming between those who believed and those who didn’t. Nicodemus didn’t want to make a rash decision; he didn’t want to jump to a conclusion. So he came.

Most people, even non-Christians, know John 3.16. Most can quote it, but few are aware of the context of the verse. It is the most popular verse summing up the Gospel message—God’s merciful plan for mankind, the gift of His Son, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the availability of forgiveness of sin and the gracious gift of salvation. It’s beautiful. It’s free. It’s radical.

Nicodemus came affirming that Jesus was from God. It seems from Christ’s response to him that Nicodemus had a pure heart and was honestly seeking to understand. Jesus plunged into the necessity of being born again. Jesus answered, but still Nicodemus didn’t understand and asked again

Nicodemus wanted to know for himself. He wasn’t willing to embrace the judgments of others concerning Jesus. He wanted to know first hand. Instead of taking a poll of the other Pharisees, he went to the source, Jesus.

After their brief conversation in which Jesus lays out the gospel emphasizing the importance of belief, contrasting light and darkness, Nicodemus fades into the darkness. But he obviously contemplates the moonlight meeting with the Messiah.

The next time we see Nicodemus, he quells a potential mob by simply asking, “Doesn’t our Law prevent us from judging a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing?” The next verse says that everyone went home.

When we’re introspective we look inside first. Looking at our own hearts we see selfishness, pride, impatience, envy, discontentment, and lust. In other words we are slapped in the face with the reality of our own sin. Though saved, we are reminded just how much we need the blood of Christ, how grateful we are for His sacrifice, how amazing grace really is.

This ‘look inside’, this sober introspection, ignites praise to Him alone who is Worthy. It grants us an opportunity to acknowledge Him who sits on the throne, who is Sovereign, Holy, Immutable, Almighty, and Righteous.

This awareness, this mindset of praise, profoundly affects how we see others. Remaining mindful of our desperate need for God, His gracious and merciful gift of Jesus, grants us compassion toward each other. It grants us the ability to skip harsh and rash judgments and instead to extend gentleness and kindness.

It’s easy to be judgmental. It’s easy to criticize, easy to assume, easy to condemn. It’s easy to think we know what someone should do, or should have done. Often we think, if I were them I’d… But we’re not them. And the truth is that we probably don’t know enough to make such a statement. What that person needs is not our evaluation of what they should or shouldn’t do, but rather our compassion. They need us to extend them grace in the measure of grace that has been given to us.

Nicodemus was tempted to judge Jesus based on what others were saying—others who were probably not considering their own hearts. When Nicodemus went to Jesus he asked some honest questions. He was searching, not racing to judgment. It seems that he continued to think long after their conversation because Nicodemus participated in burying the body of Jesus. Though he couldn’t stop the madness, it seems that he got who Jesus was.

The next time we are thinking about judging someone else, the next time we’re tempted to point out someone else’s flaw or mistake, the next time we consider being tacky, let’s dare to stop ourselves. Let’s dare to pause and remember how lost, how messed up, and how sinful we were before He found us.

Let us not be anxious to judge others and avoid the mirror of God’s word, the Light of life that reveals sin. Let us not run from the revelations of our own failures, faults, mistakes, and mutterings. Let us dare to ask God to show us, to teach us. Let us prepare our hearts daily to respond to His prompting.

Father,

As we look inside ourselves we don’t find the answer, we find a mess. We don’t find the strength, we find weakness, we don’t find hope but instead despair. Father you are our answer, You are our hope. Grant us time today to take a look inside, to be still and know. Teach us what it means to be teachable. Come and make us whiter than snow.

Psalms 139

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know [a]when I sit down and [b]when I rise up;

You understand my thought from afar.

You [c]scrutinize my [d]path and my lying down,

And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Even before there is a word on my tongue,

Behold, O Lord, You know it all.

You have enclosed me behind and before,

And laid Your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in [f]Sheol, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the dawn,

If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

10 Even there Your hand will lead me,

And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will [g]overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

12 Even the darkness is not dark [h]to You,

And the night is as bright as the day.

Darkness and light are alike to You.

13 For You formed my [i]inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

14 I will give thanks to You, for [j]I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.

15 My [k]frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.

When I awake, I am still with You.

19 O that You would slay the wicked, O God;

Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.

20 For they speak [l]against You wickedly,

And Your enemies [m]take Your name in vain.

21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?

And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?

22 I hate them with the utmost hatred;

They have become my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

24 And see if there be any [n]hurtful way in me,

And lead me in the everlasting way.

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Character Quality: Meekness

Character Quality: Meekness with {free} coloring page download.

 

 

Character Quality: Meekness

Meekness is rooted in self-control, but is not without boldness. Meekness requires discernment and subsequent action. Meekness displays humility, strength under fire. It chooses to trust even when it doesn’t make sense to do so. Meekness will display clear evidence of a person’s maturity.

Mary found favor in the eyes of God. Though young, God saw her heart, a heart that was tender, innocent, and willing. When the Angel visited her with the big announcement, Mary responded in meekness. She came under the authority of the angel, she submitted herself as a trusting servant. There was no sign in Mary of willfulness or stubbornness or doubt—quite the opposite. She was composed, confident, and calm. She listened to what the Angel had to say and then obeyed.

I’ve done a whole dramatic recording called Mary Remembers. It is a view from Mary’s perspective as the mother of Christ. You can get more information about it here.

There is a chosen strength in meekness. Though it can fall into passive conformity, when empowered and inspired by God, it can be more powerfully exemplified in active cooperation. The person who practices meekness does not sit on the sidelines, but rather is involved, working with others to solve problems. They are often described as diplomatic.

The opposite of meek is difficult, contrary, frustrating. Arrogance and selfishness characterize the person who lives without meekness. A meek person listens, submits, and cooperates. We see this in Mary’s interaction with the Angel.

First she listened to the Angel’s greeting, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” Further she is admonished, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” There is nothing recorded in Scripture of Mary talking over the Angel, interrupting, or asking for exhaustive explanations. She just listens.

The angel goes on to lay out God’s plan, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His kingdom will have no end.” (Note the seven promises outlined by the Angel!)

Mary, having listened, asked a simple, reasonable question. There is no doubt in her words, but rather a desire to understand the ‘how’ this was to happen. Instead of doubt, it’s her innocence that is reflected when she asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

The Angel gently explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will over-shadow you; and for this reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Nothing is impossible with God.” Again Mary listens.

Her response to this statement shows her submission, “Behold, I am the bond-servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Here Mary’s submission to the will of the Lord as declared through the angel is clear. She exhibits humility, willingly placing herself under his authority. She knew her place and freely took it.

Mary didn’t know exactly what it would mean to agree to carry the Son of God. How could she have anticipated what was to come? She didn’t. She couldn’t have possibly known how others would respond. She couldn’t have predicted the ridicule, the shunning, or the whispering. Instead of trying to make sense of it all, she simply chose to submit and trust.

As the months moved on, Mary continues to display her example of meekness as she cooperates with God and His plan. She takes her place not only under God, but also under her husband Joseph. The timing of the census was truly divine. Mary and Joseph traveled together to Bethlehem and there she gave birth.

Scripture is replete with examples of Mary’s meekness. She listened, submitted, and cooperated with God’s will and His plan. This is not to say that she completely understood it. In fact it was quite the opposite. But time and time again, Mary chose to trust God.

Father,

Teach us the beauty of meekness. Do not allow us to think of it as weakness or as wimpy. It is quiet the opposite to trust You. Strengthen us and increase our faith when things get hard and don’t make sense. Help us to listen, to submit, and to cooperate. Help us to remember who You are in the midst of the madness and the chaos, the hurry and the mundane. Our meekness is beautiful to You. It is the hallmark of a child of the King.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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Character Quality: Meekness with {free} coloring page download.

Character Quality: Integrity

Character Quality: Integrity with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Integrity

Integrity is who you really are. Your center, when the lights are off, when no one can see or hear. What do you really think about? Are you really pursuing God or have you just gotten really good at making it look like you are? Are you really honest or are you a great illusionist? Are you really interested in others or only to the extent that they make you look good or do you a favor.

Who are we when no one is watching? When we forget some One always is? Do we exaggerate? Cheat? Fudge? Will we sneak?

A life of integrity is: focused on the Lord, resolved to honor Him, confident in His plan. Enoch lived a life of integrity. Scripture simply states, “Enoch walked with God.”(The only other Bible character said to have walked with God was Noah.)

To have integrity is to have courage to live honestly. It means you don’t have to keep complicated records of what you’ve said to who or what you’ve done and why. Integrity means that you live your life free of the bondage of lies and manipulation, arrogance and selfishness.

Most of us want to live with integrity. We want others to respect and trust us. We want to be known as people who do the right thing no matter what. We get in trouble when we feel threatened, when we feel backed into a corner, when we feel vulnerable or lost or panicked. These are times when we’ve lost our focus. Maybe the fog has rolled in or the storm is raging or there are too many distractions-no matter-we are disoriented.

We don’t set out to be deceptive or corrupt. We don’t want to be characterized as dishonest or duplicitous, a cheat or a crook. In fact, loosing our integrity usually doesn’t happen over night. It happens in bits and pieces, at weak places and at moments when we are caught off guard.

To live life with character, we must first be focused on the Lord. Looking to Him as our hope, acknowledging Him as our Master, depending on Him for wisdom, trusting His guidance, these daily practices and disciplines set our minds on Him. It is this focus on Him that strengthens us to live our daily lives with integrity, not because we can, but that He does through us.

Next, living with integrity means we resolve to honor God in all things. When we set as our goal to bring glory to God in all we do and say, we live authentically. We choose to be kind, generous, patient and forgiving because it honors God. Not because we believe that God will be angry or punish us if we don’t exhibit such character, but because we love Him and want Him to be glorified through us.

When we live with integrity, we show our confidence in God and His plan. Often people compromise their integrity because they doubt God, they don’t believe He can, that He will. Because of their fear, they choose to be dishonest, to lie, cheat, steal. Not because they are malicious or hateful but simply because they don’t trust that God is in control.

In order to live with integrity, we must choose to trust God, His will, His plan, His way. We must choose to believe that He’s got it, “the whole world in His hands” as the song goes. He is sovereign over all creation and time. If we believe that, we will live with integrity, doing what we know to be right and true and good even if it looks foolish or silly to the world.

Father,

You desire that we live lives of integrity. It seems impossible to us to be honest and selfless. Often the little things don’t seem to matter. But God we know that our honesty in the big and little things matters to You because You care about our hearts. Teach us what it means to focus on You instead of ourselves, to honor You in all we say and do, and to trust You and Your plan. You are good and Your ways are just. Strengthen us to be bright lights because we are walking in the light of Your truth. Amen

“Search me, God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting. “

Psalm 139.23-24

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Character Quality: Integrity with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Friendly

Character Quality: Friendly with {free} coloring page.

Character Quality: Friendly

“Let your light so shine among men that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

“walk as children of the Light….”

How do you let your light shine? It starts with just a smile. A smile is the universal “Hello”, the universal “Hey”, the universal “I see you.” Smiling isn’t difficult, but it is daring. Smiling at a stranger is a way of reaching out to them from a distance. Like a small light, a smile can change the atmosphere in a room.

Jesus smiled. He made it a point to meet people where they were. He greeted them with loving eyes, compassion and gentleness. Jesus wasn’t all sullen and serious. He wasn’t grave and grim, though he was resolute and earnest.

Jesus met Matthew with a smile, “Come follow Me.” He greeted Nicodemus with a smile in the darkness around a campfire. He smiled as Martha railed about Mary’s irresponsibility, smiled when we noticed Zacchaeus up in the Sycamore tree. The Rich Young Ruler, the lepers, the blind man who couldn’t see it, but could sense it, was drawn in by Jesus’ smile.

Our smile is the first impression we give to others. Our smile communicates confidence in ourselves and our interest in the other person. Smiling is a bold, courageous act. It’s a soft tap on the door of someone’s heart. A smile proceeds a conversation, an understanding, trust, and friendship. It is an attempt to initiate a relationship by simply sharing a little joy with someone.

When I was a young girl my mom and I would play a game at the check out of stores. We would search for the cashier who looked as if she’d had the worst day, the one who was down-trodden, the one who was screaming, “I don’t want to be here!” We would get in her line, no matter how long. Our mission: to see who could get her to smile first. We would smile, ask about her day, engage with her.

I still look for the dicouraged cashier. And I’ve learned a few things. There are a lot of hurting people. They go through the motions, go to work, try to do their best, but they are stuck in a place of wounding. They don’t think anyone sees, much less cares. They are living Thoreau described as “lives of quiet desperation.”

Few people feel known. Most don’t feel heard. They feel trapped, lost. Their world is spinning and they are free-falling. They wonder if anyone notices, anyone cares. Hope and joy allude them. Smiles and laughter are strangers to them. I’ve learned that it matters for us to take the time to engage with them, to smile at them, to communicate that we care.

Being friendly can be scary. Often it is easier to just keep to ourselves, embrace austere and aloof. But those are not God honoring. God needs us to be His hands and feet. That means that we dare to look others, strangers, in the eyes and say, “Hello.” It means we smile, nod, acknowledge. Holding the door open for someone, saying “excuse me” in a crowded space, thanking others for their help, all of these are expressions of friendliness.

As we have seen, these characters work together and complement each other. It would impossible for them to work independent of each other. There is great overlap. Diligence needs determination and focus. Gratitude needs awareness and contentment. Friendly needs selflessness and self-control. It needs confidence, gentleness and kindness. It must be considerate and compassionate.

The beautiful part of this is that often we will have a strength in one area and a weakness in another. But because they are all interrelated, we can grow and improve in our weaknesses as we trust the Lord with them and allow Him to mold us into the image of His Son. Jesus is the perfect whole. He is God. As God He cannot act in contradiction to Himself. He is holy, just, gracious, and loving. Complete. Eternal. Omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.

Our ability to be friendly, to be-friend others is directly related to our heart’s desire to point others to Him. Our selflessness. It requires that we allow Him to work through our fears of rejection and hurt, our unrealistic expectations, our past failures and allow Him to teach us.

Teaching our children to be friendly is done most efficiently by modeling it. Start by smiling at them! Your kids should know your smile. It should be the most common expression on your face. Our smiles should come from the inside out, an outward expression of our inward relationship with He who alone is Able and Worthy. So start by smiling at your kids, seek to acknowledge them

Father,

Teach us to be friendly to others in the world. You have placed us here for a purpose. There are many who do not know you, but they see us. May our smiles be genuine; may they reflect our love for You and our interest in those You gave Your Son for. May we be good representatives of You as we go into the world.

Amen

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Character Quality: Friendly with {free} coloring page.