Choosing the road to life and wellness

This scripture from the Bible book Matthew reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost. The late poet Robert Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry; his work is among the most widely read and often quoted poetry to this day. Listen to it here if you don’t remember it.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, ESV
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The Road Not Taken

This scripture from the Bible book Matthew reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost. The late poet Robert Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry; his work is among the most widely read and often quoted poetry to this day. Listen to it here if you don’t remember it.

“The Road Not Taken” was originally published in The Atlantic in 1915 along with two other poems from Frost. It is now widely considered to be one of the most popular works of American literature.

“Its signature phrases have become so ubiquitous, so much a part of everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets to graduation speeches, that it’s almost possible to forget the poem is actually a poem. “The Road Not Taken” has been used in advertisements for Mentos, Nicorette, the multibillion-dollar insurance company AIG, and the job-search Web site Monster.com, which deployed the poem during Super Bowl XXXIV to great success.”

What does the poem mean?

The poem’s meaning has been extensively dissected, discussed, and debated; most assign a deep meaning about life, choices, regrets, what-ifs, etc.

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So I was surprised to read that Frost himself didn’t take the poem nearly as seriously as everyone else has. He claimed that he wrote it as a joke for a friend.

At poetryfoundation.org , Katherine Robinson wrote,

“Soon after writing the poem in 1915, Frost griped to Edward Thomas that he had read the poem to an audience of college students and that it had been “taken pretty seriously … despite doing my best to make it obvious by my manner that I was fooling. … Mea culpa.” However, Frost liked to quip, “I’m never more serious than when joking.”

As his joke unfolds, Frost creates a multiplicity of meanings, never quite allowing one to supplant the other. When Frost sent the poem to Thomas, Thomas initially failed to realize that the poem was (mockingly) about him. Instead, he believed it was a serious reflection on the need for decisive action. (He would not be alone in that assessment.) “

What did Jesus mean in Matthew 7?

This scripture is part of the Sermon on the Mount attributed to Jesus (I’ve written other posts about these verses from Matthew chapters 5-7.) It also is widely known and quoted, as well as other verses like the Golden Rule, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Beatitudes.

The overall message of the Sermon is anything but a joke; Jesus makes bold and daring statements in this passage, which explains why it is so widely quoted and taught on. One famous preacher, Oswald Chambers used it often enough that his wife included several selections when she published a collection of his sermons as a daily devotional know as My Utmost for Hhttp://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-7879000-13261435?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.barnesandnoble.com%2Fw%2Fmy-utmost-for-his-highest-gift-edition-oswald-chambers%2F1100998706%3Fean%3D9781572933941&cjsku=9781572933941is Highest.

In a devotional titled “All Noble Things are Difficult” for July 7th, he wrote

“The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcome.

God’s grace turns out men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not milksops.”

It is always necessary to make an effort to be noble.”

Oswald Chambers

Milksops. That’s not a word we hear often; I looked it up and it means exactly what it sounds like. What happens when you dip bread into milk? It gets soggy and falls apart. So a milksop is ” a person who is indecisive and lacks courage.

Choices, choices, choices

Despite Frost’s assertion that his poem was a joke, multiple commentaries dissect it extensively and assign all kinds of meaning to it, suggesting that we do believe that our choices matter in life, whether relationships, finances, education, or health.

Doctors and other health professionals now believe that lifestyle is one of the chief determinants of health and emphasize preventing and even treating illness with nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, sleep, healthy habits, and stress management.

Consider the Foundation

Whether you’re building a house, a career, a family, or your health, what you build on matters too. Jesus concluded his sermon with a building lesson.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 

 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 

 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:24-27, ESV

Reading these verses reminds me of the rain storms we endured in Oklahoma this past spring leading to extensive flooding causing loss of homes and businesses; other parts of the country suffered the same, and now we’re watching coastal areas deal with devastating hurricanes. We’re pretty helpless to defend our property against the ravages of nature. That doesn’t have to be the case with our health if we build well. To paraphrase Oswald Chambers, “It is necessary to make an effort to be healthy.”

The Legacy of Oswald and Biddy Chambers

Here’s the story of Oswald Chambers and his wife Biddy. After his death, she collected writings from his lectures and talks into books and the well known devotional mentioned above. In the introduction she wrote,

it is sent out with the prayer that day by day the messages may continue to bring the life and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

 

Biddy Chambers

exploring faith, hope, and love

Thanks for joining me to explore poetry and scripture; my hope is that this prompts you to further explore on your own. Here are some other posts from this series

How to satisfy hunger and thirst

Opportunities to do good Living and giving lavishly

Why pray The Lord’s Prayer

5 lessons I learned when the lights went out

 

You can find many books about Oswald Chambers’ writing and teaching at this affiliate link (meaning it will pay a commission to this blog if you purchase anything through it.)

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                              Dr. Aletha 

Faith, Love, Hope

Learn more about Lifestyle Medicine from Baylor College of Medicine

“Lifestyle medicine (LM) involves the use of evidence-based therapeutic approaches, such as a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, and avoidance of risky substance use, to prevent, treat, and, oftentimes, reverse the chronic disease that’s all too prevalent,”

The surprising blessing of discomfort

Also well known and often quoted is a daily devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest”, by Oswald Chambers. Some call it the most beloved devotional book of all time. 

Matthew 5:3-10

The Beatitudes make up several verses of the Biblical book of Matthew .

Matthew recorded these lessons that Jesus taught in his “Sermon on the Mount”, some of the most well known and often quoted verses of the Bible.

a ceramic cross with the Beatitudes Matthew 5:3-10

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Finding “Our Utmost”

Also well known and often quoted is a daily devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest”, by Oswald Chambers. Some consider it the most beloved devotional book of all time.

Oswald Chambers

Chambers was a Scottish Bible teacher in the early 1900s who was popular due to his penetrating examination of the Bible. After his death his wife Biddy chose many of his talks and published them as a book of daily devotions.

Now almost 100 years later, Christians still find comfort and challenge from his pointed observations and interpretation of scripture.

Here is an excerpt from the devotional for July 25 in which he reflects on Matthew 5:3-10.

“The Beatitudes seem merely mild and beautiful precepts for all unworldly and useless people but of little practical use in the stern world in which we live.

…we have to decide whether we will accept the tremendous spiritual upheaval that will be produced in our circumstances if we obey His words.

The teaching of Jesus is out of proportion to our natural way of looking at things and it comes with astonishing discomfort to begin with. “

Oswald Chambers’ book continues to be available in print and now through modern technology another way to access his insights-

the My Utmost for His Highest app for iPhone and iPad

Read daily inspiration from My Utmost For His Highest in the edition of your choice.

  • 365 days of thought-provoking devotions.
  • Automatically opens to the current daily reading.
  • Join the conversation on each day’s reading.
  • Set reading reminders.
  • Download on the App Store

Listen to music inspired by the devotionals

 
The Beatitudes-The surprising blessing of discomfort-watercresswords.com

Author Kim Phuc Phan Thi also referenced a Beatitude in her memoir Fire Road 

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)

“I would run my finger along those phases, wondering if those words could really be true. If I pursue your ways, God, will you really satisfy that which is hungry in me?”                    

excerpt  from FIRE ROAD 

                                Read my review of  FIRE ROAD 

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Share your personal reflection

After you read through the Beatitudes, leave a comment- which one makes you the most uncomfortable and why? Is it good to feel uncomfortable sometimes?

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Please share this post and come again to Watercress Words for more  

words of faith, hope, and love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Thank you so much.    Dr. Aletha                 

And now these three remain-faith, hop and love, as read from a Bible
1 Corinthians 13:13, photo from the Lightstock.com collection (affiliate link)