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What To Do with Christmas Cards?

3 Feb

In a February 1883 issue of The Pansy magazine, Isabella turned an average question—What shall we do with Christmas cards we receive?—into a lesson for children in being thoughtful of others.

What Shall We Do with Our Christmas Cards?

All those bright pretty affairs that came flying in from the postman’s fingers at Christmas time to make us so happy—why can’t we make them give happiness to someone else the whole year? Someone sick and suffering, with little to brighten and amuse? Why, they would be very messengers of sweet charity to such.

Here is work for you, dear little Pansies who belong to the “P. S. Society.” Make a scrap book of all those cards which you think it right to give away, saying your whisper motto, For Jesus’ Sake, as you tuck in the dainty bit of color, and the pretty verses, then send it all on loving wing to the Children’s Ward of the hospital of your city.

Think of the eyes that will rest on it when the pain makes the tears come; think of the little ones who must lie on their beds, weary day after weary day, when you are running, and skating, and sleigh-riding!

And best of all, think how the children will love the book, just because some other child made it for them.

How many members of the “P. S.” will do this? Who will be first, I wonder?

If you want to make a very pretty book, cut leaves of white, and pink, and light blue cambric or sateen; tie them together at back with ribbon or braid, putting strings of same on front.

An 1869 home-made cloth scrapbook (from Worthpoint.com).

Paste all dark pictures on the white cloth; all delicately tinted ones on the colored cloth. The effect will be very lovely—I know the “Children’s Ward” will think so.

A cloth scrapbook from the 1860s (from RubyLane.com).

You can learn more about the “P.S. Society” and the “whisper motto, “For Jesus’ Sake” by clicking here.

Do you send and receive Christmas cards each year?

What creative things have you done with them once the holiday is over?

Advice to Readers about Forgiveness

20 Jan

In the early 1900s Isabella wrote a regular column for a Christian magazine in which she answered reader letters and offered advice—from a Christian perspective—on a variety of subjects.

The letter below came from a teen in California:

I am in sore need of help. I find that I cannot use the whole of the Lord’s Prayer. Our pastor talked last Sunday about the Lord’s Prayer being a “model,” but I cannot model my praying after it. The words that trouble me are, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Now, there is one person whom I cannot forgive. She has purposely come between me and my best friends. She has said untrue things about me—dozens of them—and she loses no opportunity to be hateful to me.

How can I pretend to forgive such a creature? The last thing she wants is my forgiveness—why, she says that she despises me, and wouldn’t speak to me, nor stay in the same room with me for the world!

I cannot understand why I should be expected to forgive her. Even God doesn’t forgive people unless they ask him to, does he? And yet, the prayer says, “Forgive us our debts AS we forgive.” Doesn’t that mean that if I pray that prayer I am actually asking God to forgive me in the same way that I am forgiving her? That seems to me an awful prayer!

I want God to forgive me: and I want to serve him, yet it seems as though that said I mustn’t ask him, because I cannot forgive her! I don’t understand it, and I don’t know what to do. And there is that verse about “loving your enemies”—that is simply impossible! And yet I do truly love Jesus and want to follow him. What shall I do?

Here’s how Isabella responded to her letter:

Undoubtedly your pastor is right, and the Lord Jesus gave us a “model prayer.” Yet the phrase you quoted has not the exact meaning you give to it. It is not a challenge to God to treat us, in the matter of forgiveness, just as we are treating somebody else; it is rather our acknowledgment to God that we have obeyed his directions.

Do you remember that in the chapter preceding the one with the Lord’s Prayer, the words of Jesus are plainer and stronger than those in the prayer? When you go to pray and remember that your brother has something against you, go first and be reconciled to him, then come and offer your gift of prayer.

The duty of forgiveness is so plainly and repeatedly taught in the Bible that there is no way of escaping it. Nor are we by any means to wait to be asked. Note the language of that direction in Mat. 5:23:

“And there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee.”

Not even necessarily you against him but he against you.

You speak of God having to be asked before he forgives, but you forget what is involved. When God forgives, he absolves from sin, and presents eternal life; and the plan of salvation is, there is no compulsion, the sinner is free, he may accept or refuse, but forgiveness, remember, is offered, and God waits for its acceptance.

If I understand your letter (or, rather, your letters, for the quotation is gathered from several who, with varying surroundings, have much the same problem), your main trouble is, I think, that you do not take in the real meaning of that word “forgiveness,” or that word “love,” as applied to your enemies. It is not that you are directed to have pleasure in the society of the one who has injured you, or to feel the same toward her that you do toward a friend.

It is not that you should trust her, so long as she continues to prove herself unworthy of trust, nor that you should love her in the way that you love those who please you. None of these things would you be able to do. But there is higher ground than this, and the Christian, because of God in his life, can reach it.

You can refrain from talking about this one who has injured you, and making the wounds deeper by spreading them open.

You can be kept from brooding in private over what has been done.

You can be helped to genuinely want good and not evil to come to that one.

You can learn to pray daily for her highest good.

You can grow into an earnest desire to be helpful to her in any way that may open.

All this is possible and reasonable, and his been done by God’s children again and again. It may look impossible to you but it is not, because the impossible is God’s part.

Yield yourself to him, and what he sees that you honestly want he will grant. This is loving our enemies and forgiving them their debts. It is not a love of enjoyment in their society necessarily, until there is a radical change in them—but it is higher than that, because it is divine. It is thinking God’s thoughts after him.

Don’t imagine for a moment that you can run away from the obligation that is upon you to forgive, by skipping the Lord’s Prayer. Remember that its spirit must pervade all real prayer.

What do you think of Isabella’s advice?

Do you think she gave the right counsel to the teen from California?

You can read Isabella’s Advice to Readers about Ornaments by clicking here. 

Daily Thoughts for December

30 Nov

This post contains the final installment of Isabella’s monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which she wrote for The Pansy magazine in 1885.

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of December focus on Chapters 139 and 46 of the Book of Psalms.

Please Note: You will see that the PDF version of the original 1885 “Daily Thoughts” for December contains two errors:

  1. There is no verse for December 31 (unfortunately for us!).
  2. The verses for December 25 through 30 are incorrectly attributed to Chapter xli (Chapter 41) of the Book of Psalms. This was probably just a printing error in the original issue of The Pansy magazine. The correct chapter is Psalms xlvi (Chapter 46).

Click here to open a PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for November, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for previous months, you can find them here: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October November

Advice to Readers about Ornaments

18 Nov

In the early 1900s Isabella wrote a regular column for a Christian magazine in which she answered reader letters and offered advice—from a Christian perspective—on a variety of subjects.

The column gives us a wonderful insight into Isabella’s personality and her plain, straightforward manner of communicating.

In one of her 1911 columns, Isabella shared this letter from a reader named Nannie:

I want to have a little talk with you about what will seem to you, I suppose, a small matter, but it is giving me a good deal of trouble.

Do you think it is wrong to wear any kind of jewelry? I have a very dear friend who has given me a gold ring with a pearl in it, and I want to wear it; chiefly for the friend’s sake, although I do think it looks pretty on my hand. But my aunt, with whom I live, is a very religious woman, and she thinks it is wrong for me to wear rings; she says it is going contrary to plain Bible commands, and she quotes that verse about braiding the hair and wearing jewels of gold. Now, is she right? Is it wicked to curl my hair, for instance, when it is less work to curl it than to keep it smooth? And to wear my dear ring that I have promised to keep forever?

I want to be good, but— Can God care about such trifles? My aunt says that my dear dead mother thought just as she does about these things, and that I am showing disrespect to her memory. But my mother did not seem like that to me; she used to trim my little dresses, and she curled my hair around her finger. She died, though, when I was eight, and now I am eighteen. Will you tell me if you think I am wicked?

Nannie.

Here’s how Isabella responded to Nannie’s letter:

My Dear Nannie:
What a deal of trouble! Five questions, are there not? But they all hover about one central thought. Let us look at them separately.

“Do I think it wrong to wear jewelry?” No; if I did, I would not wear it. I have worn my wedding ring for more than forty years, and it is dearer to me, I dare to think, than even your pearl one, so, you see, I can understand your feeling. I pin my collar with a gold pin as naturally as I comb my hair, and find it vastly more convenient than a common pin would be. I wear my watch whenever I think a watch will be a convenience; and there are sundry other trifles that would come under the general head of jewelry which I call into service from time to time. All this is an easy way of stating my position. Quiet, unostentatious pieces of jewelry, keepsakes, or conveniences, or those articles that custom has made symbolic, like engagement and marriage rings, are, in my judgment, entirely appropriate for Christians to wear.

It is an altogether mistaken idea that to be religious one must cease to love the beautiful. Do you remember the lines in Mary Howitt’s verses on beauty?

God might have made the earth bring forth
Enough for great and small,
The oak tree and the cedar tree.
Without a flower at all.

The Bible verse to which you refer has caused trouble for a few conscientious people because they do not understand its environment. Study the times in which Peter wrote those words, and the fashions that were then in vogue if you want to get the spirit of his advice. Take note that it is advice, and not command. Peter is really making a comparison between two classes of ornaments—the outward and inward—and urging upon Christian women to give their attention to the latter. By way of illustration he mentions the plaiting of hair which was at that time carried to such wild excess.

Notice, too, Peter’s next phrase after mentioning the wearing of gold, “or of putting on of apparel.” Our literal friends who frown upon even the plain gold ring would surely not have us go a step farther in literal interpretation and refuse to wear clothing! I speak of this only to show you how easy it is to become absurd, even in our interpretation of Bible words.

“Is it wicked to curl your hair?” Why, child, according to your own statement the Lord has done this for you. My own opinion about it is, that so far as you and God are concerned you have a perfect right to arrange your hair in the way that you consider most becoming to you, provided it does not require an unreasonable expenditure of time or means to do so. Other things being equal, this would be a fair rule to go by.

“Can God care about such trifles?” My dear, you are speaking of the One who said: “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” There are no “trifles” in his sight. Yet I am glad to believe that he does care in the way you are thinking of it, and that he does care in a very real and helpful sense, even for rings and curls.

Now, having made all these admissions and proved myself to be clearly on your side, suppose we go back and consider the entire question from another standpoint.

Did you take notice, back there, of that somewhat obscure phrase “other things being equal,” and wonder what in the world I meant? Let me see if I can explain. A word about that dear aunt who does not think as you do. Of course, she is much older than you. As I understand it she is trying to fill the place of mother to you; you live with her; that is, she has made a home for you. Then what do you owe her in return? You want to “be good”; this is no trifle. To be good is almost the greatest thing in the world, and to want to be is one step toward it; be sure God cares for this. What has God said about those who stand as parents? “Honor” is a great word, comprehensive and far reaching; also, it is practical.

“Here, for illustration, is a ring, a lovely ring with a pearl in it. The ring is mine and I want to wear it. And here is God, interested in me, and in my ring. Does he think it wrong for me to wear it? Other things being equal, no. But here is my aunt, she thinks it wrong; she thinks that God thinks so; to have me wear it would hurt her. Would it hurt me not to wear it? That is, do I believe I would be doing wrong?”

“N-o, but—”

“Yes, I understand, but we are talking about honor now; and we have found that ‘things’ are not equal. Could I possibly, for the sake of my aunt’s feelings—for the sake of my aunt’s conscience, pack away my ring in pink cotton in its white velvet box until such time as—? Ought I to do that?”

Ah, now you have reached a question that you, that the individual conscience, must answer for itself. The illustration is only to clear the way for thought: all these questions, whether rings, or curls, or what not, swing on the same hinges.

“All things are lawful for me,” said one, “but all things are not expedient.”

“Ye have been called unto liberty.” said one, “only, use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Suppose the Bible read in this way: “But curls commend us not to God, for neither if we wear them are we the better, neither if we wear them not are we the worse; but take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” Would it make the argument plainer?

What do you think of Isabella’s “advice column?”

Do you think she gave the right advice to Nannie?

Daily Thoughts for November

28 Oct

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting them in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of November are from Chapter 40 of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for November, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for previous months, you can find them here: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October

Daily Thoughts for October

29 Sep

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of October are from Chapter 6 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and Chapter 2 of the book of Revelation.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for October, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May  June July August September

Daily Thoughts for September

31 Aug

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of September are from Chapter 8 of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for September, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May  June July August

Daily Thoughts for August

29 Jul

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of August are from The Book of Proverbs.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for August, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May  June July

Daily Thoughts for July

30 Jun

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of July are from The Book of Isaiah.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for July, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May  June

Daily Thoughts for June

30 May

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of June are from The Gospel According to Matthew.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for June, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May 

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