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An ancient prayer of thanksgiving that is to be said after using the bathroom...
"Blessed is he [God] who formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and cavities. It is obvious and known before your throne of glory that if one of them were to be ruptured or one of them blocked, it would be impossible for man to survive and stand before you." —Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 60b, circa 400 AD
Yeah. I know. It's funny—in a junior high sort of way.
But I also think this prayer is instructive on many levels if you'll pause just a moment to think about it.
Evidently, ancient Jewish life was saturated in prayer... about everything.
Now consider this: The Bible commands us to "Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." —1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
In light of the New Testament passage above, thanking God for orifices doesn't seem so strange, does it?
What could God do in your life if you grew from times of prayer (at church, meals, or bedtime) to include living a prayerful life?
How might God transform your life if you saturated every nook and cranny of your day with continual short prayers of thanksgiving... about everything... for just one day?
I dare you to try it... starting now... for just one day.
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In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.
The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments.
Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away.
Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.
Twenty years later, Mbemb was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenage son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapu were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.
Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help but wonder if this was the same elephant he had cared for those many years earlier.
Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He slowly walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.
The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.
Probably wasn't the same elephant.
(My very warped and fun friend, Dan Learned, passed this on to me.)
One is never closer to failure than when succeeding.
Ironic, ain't it?
Success seduces us slowly and subtly. Little by little success lulls us into a comfortable complacency.
And that's when we make the always painful and sometimes fatal mistake of dropping our guard.
That's what happened to David.
In 2 Samuel 8—after years and years of struggling, hard work, and trusting God—David seems to finally "emerge" as a leader and king. He began to experience success in depth and breadth. For "the man after God's own heart," the wind was finally at his back and in his sails:
* "The Lord gave David victory wherever he went" (8:6)
* "David became famous after he returned" from a military conquest (8:11)
* "The Lord gave David victory wherever he went" (8:14)
* "David reigned over all of Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people" (8:15)
And the personal and corporate successes of David continued through chapters 9 and 10 as well. David experienced the sweet taste of success and the exhilarating momentum that came with it.
But this amazing God-given success placed David in a very precarious position. As Andy Stanley so aptly warns, "Success is an intoxicant, and intoxicated people seldom have a firm grasp on reality."
Close on the heels of David's successes comes David's most noted failure.
Instead of joining his warriors in battle like other kings, David decided to send the troops and stay at home in his palace (11:1).
He got comfortable.
He dropped his guard a little.
One could argue that he got ntoxicated by his success and he lost his grip on reality.
Through a series of "small" but very deliberate acts of foolishness, David had sex with another man's wife. In an effort to cover up his sin, he made a horrible situation worse: He killed her husband (one of his very best warriors).
Did he get away with it?
"Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?" (Proverbs 6:27) No, God took note of David's unraveling: "...the thing David had done displeased the Lord" (11:27). Subsequent chapters of 2 Samuel clearly show that God set events in motion that would trouble David till his death.
Think about this for a moment.
What preceded David's most notorious failure?
The answer: Success from God.
Kind of crazy ain't it? It seems the wine of success tends to dupe the drinker into small—and then monumental—acts of foolishness. Hence, the result of success is often failure. In other words, David experienced death by success.
So take heed.
When the sweet sunshine of God's success starts smiling it's wonderful face on you, beware lest you become ever so slightly intoxicated and begin to lose your grasp on reality. Yes, bask in the warm rays of God's success, but keep a sharp lookout for the smallest sign of unraveling in the little things in your life.
For one is never closer to failure than when succeeding.