Find God in Groundhog Day History

By Dianne Neal Matthews:

Whether or not the little critter sees his shadow, we can find God on Groundhog Day as we think about fear and how it might hold us back.

 This article is adapted from Dianne Neal Matthews’ book The One Year on This Day (Tyndale House).

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Find God in Groundhog Day History

According to tradition, February 2 is the date that the groundhog, or woodchuck, wakes up from winter hibernation and comes out of its burrow. The legend says that if the sun shines that day, the groundhog will be scared by its own shadow, return to its burrow, and winter will last another six weeks. If the day is cloudy and the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, it will stay outside and spring will come soon.

For several hundred years, European farmers had similar traditions involving badgers, bears, and other animals. Early German settlers brought their custom to Pennsylvania. Plentiful in the eastern and Midwestern states, the groundhog became the animal linked with our Groundhog Day custom in America. Since 1887, “Punxsutawney Phil” has been the official weather prophet in well-attended Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

We’ve all experienced the desire to hide from circumstances that threaten us, just like the traditional groundhog. Some Bible scholars assume that Paul’s allusion to timidity or cowardice refers to a problem that Timothy had. Others interpret it as a general encouragement to Paul’s young protégé as Timothy spread the gospel in hostile environments. In either case, the verse reminds us that the Holy Spirit does not bring fear but instills in us the ability to control ourselves beyond our natural capabilities.

God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Fear is a problem with everyone to some degree. God told Isaiah that the Lord is the only one we are to fear (Isaiah 8:13). Fear will be replaced by faith if we concentrate on pleasing the One who holds our destiny in his hands. Then we can say with David:

“I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (NLT)

There’s no need to be frightened by scary shadows around us as long as the Son is shining.

Think about it: How do your fears keep you from being all God wants you to be?

At groundhog.org you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about Groundhog Day history and more.

Watch this fun video to learn more about groundhogs and to find out how much wood woodchucks chuck:

© Dianne Neal Matthews (www.DianneNealMatthews.com). Dianne is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books.

 

 

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Find God as You Remember Dear Abby

By Dianne Neal Matthews:

The recent death of Pauline Phillips, originator of the Dear Abby column, reminds us where to find God and the ultimate advice for living.

 This article is adapted from the book The One Year on This Day (Tyndale House).

Image of Pauline Phillips, the original Dear Abby in 1961 IWikipedia)

Image of Pauline Phillips, the original Dear Abby in 1961 (Wikipedia)

In January 1956, the first Dear Abby column appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. Pauline Phillips wrote the advice column ­under­ the pen name Abigail Van Buren, answering readers’ questions about relationships, romance, health, and social issues.

In 1987, Phillips’s daughter, Jeanne, began writing the column with her, and the two worked together until Pauline retired in 2002. According to Universal Uclick, Dear Abby appears in about 1,400 newspapers worldwide, has a daily readership of more than 110 million — in print and on its Web site, dearabby.com — and receives more than 10,000 letters and e-mails a week.

Pauline’s identical twin sister, Esther Lederer, had already begun a career as an advice columnist a few months earlier. She won the Chicago Sun-Times contest to become the second Ann Landers, after the woman who had created the column died. The column was published in more than 1,200 newspapers with ninety million daily readers until Esther’s death in 2002.

We all need a little advice sometimes. The book of Proverbs has much to say about seeking counsel from others:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. Proverbs 12:15 (NKJV)

We are urged to make plans and go to war ­only with good counsel and advice from others (20:18). Still, we need to be careful of the source and content of any advice we receive. It must be carefully filtered through the Bible to make sure it’s not contrary to God’s counsel.

Advice from trusted friends or professional counselors can be valuable and helpful if it is sound and biblically based. But we ­shouldn’t forget God’s credentials:

“Common sense and success belong to me. Insight and strength are mine” (Proverbs 8:14 NLT).

Isaiah even gave the name Counselor to ­Jesus hundreds of years before his birth (Isaiah 9:6). Advice columns can be helpful, but before running to a newspaper column, we should go to the One who wrote the Book on wise advice. In the Bible, we’ll find God and the ultimate advice on living that will change us forever.

You can read more about Pauline Phillips’ life and career in this New York Times article: Pauline Phillips, Flinty Adviser to Millions as Dear Abby, Dies at 94

In this brief excerpt from a 1990 Larry King interview, Phillips talks about how she got her break in the advice column business:

©Dianne Neal Matthews (www.diannenealmatthews.com). Dianne is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books, including Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books 2012) in paperback, Kindle or Kindle for PC.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?  Share it with us.

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Find God in Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Dianne Neal Matthews:

As you observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, why not take a moment to find God and think about His commands for how we should treat each other?

This article is adapted from Dianne Neal Matthews’ book, The One Year on This Day (Tyndale House).

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Image by Naomi

Martin Luther King Jr. was the most influential leader of the civil rights movement during the fifties and sixties. He used his eloquent speaking ability to articulate blacks’ grievances with discrimination in the United States. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. In 1983, Congress made the third Monday in January a federal holiday to honor King.

One of the highlights of King’s career was a speech delivered on August 28, 1963, to a gathering in Washington, D.C., King said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.’ ”

Prejudice appears to be a universal weakness in human nature, with ­every­ race and ­every­ group of people. We all struggle with a tendency to judge others by external characteristics rather than their intrinsic value as people created by God. If not skin color, we may discriminate on the basis of economic or educational status, physical attractiveness, clothing, manners, or accent.

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord ­Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:1 (NLT)

Several Scriptures remind us that God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34). He told Samuel that while people judge by outward appearance, the Lord looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions (1 Samuel 16:7). Scripture also warns us against partiality on our part. James says that if we show favoritism, we are committing a sin (2:9).

In Galatians 3:28 we are given a beautiful picture of relationships among believers as God intended:

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ ­Jesus.”

One in Christ—that’s a dream we should all have.

This video contains a condensed version of King’s famous 1963 speech:

© Dianne Neal Matthews (www.DianneNealMatthews.com). Dianne is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books.

 

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