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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at       https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

 

 

Samuel always wanted to be an artist. He even studied in England with the famous American artist-become-Londoner, Benjamin West. And though painting was his first love, Samuel soon won a prestigious award for a sculpture: “The Dying Hercules (1813).”

God’s plan seemed clear for the devout Christian. Samuel was created to be an artist.

Upon returning to the United States, Samuel turned his attention to portrait painting, traveling from town to town to offer his talent. And although his income was often meager, Samuel was very happy in the work.

 

(One of Samuel’s paintings, “Gallery of the Louvre,” 1831-1833)

 

A proud moment came in 1825 when he was invited to paint none other than James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States. And while in Washington, Samuel was also commissioned to paint the French General, Marquis de Lafayette.

 

(Samuel’s portrait of Lafayette, 1825)

 

Surely God was smiling his favor upon the artist’s success.

And then disaster struck.

Samuel received word that his wife, Lucretia, had died after the birth of their third child, back home in Connecticut. He rushed to New Haven, but by the time he arrived, Lucretia was already buried.

His anguish was accompanied by frustration. If only there were a faster way to communicate across great distances, he thought.

And he remembered another time of similar frustration.

In 1811 when Samuel had first arrived in London, a second war between Britain and the United States was imminent. English ships were attacking American ships, suspected of carrying goods to Britain’s enemy, France. England did seek reconciliation with America, but before the letter arrived in Washington, America declared war on Britain.

Slow communication caused hardship and pain at the end of that war also. After the peace treaty was signed, another major battle was fought because the generals didn’t know the war was over.

 

 

In 1832, Samuel was en route from Europe to America, after further study of painting, and happened to hear a passenger describe Benjamin Franklin’s experiment of passing electric current through miles of wire. The current had sparked instantaneously at the opposite end.

And Samuel thought, Perhaps there is a way to make rapid communication possible.  He began to devise plans immediately.

Now one might think such a worthy endeavor, undertaken by a devout believer in Jesus, would receive God’s blessing, and the road from experimentation to completion would be level, smooth, and short.

Not so.

For years he worked through disappointments and setbacks. Finally, in 1842, Samuel applied for a patent. The next hurdle: to find financial support in order to put his invention to work.

Two more years passed as Samuel tried to find backers, first in the U.S. and then in Europe. No one was interested.

A man of lesser faith would surely have given up; but not Samuel. During this time, he wrote:

“I am perfectly satisfied that, mysterious as it may seem to me, it has all been ordered in view of my Heavenly Father’s guiding hand” (1).

And…

“The only gleam of hope, and I cannot underrate it, is from confidence in God…I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence” (2).

 

(The House of Representatives, by Samuel, 1822-1823)

 

Finally, the U.S. Congress allotted $30,000 for him to lay cable across the harbor between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Samuel invited the daughter of a friend to choose the first transmitted words. She selected a passage from scripture, knowing that behind Samuel’s passion and perseverance was the God who had inspired and sustained him.

On May 24, 1844 in Washington, DC, Samuel tapped out the first telegraph message in a binary code he invented. It soon bore his name—Morse code.

 

 

Instantly in Baltimore, the message was received: “What hath God wrought,” (Numbers 23:23).

 

 

By the mid-1850s, more than 20,000 miles of cable had been laid across America.

 

(Samuel Morse, 1857.  Photograph by Matthew Brady)

 

And by the mid-1860s, a cable was laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, providing instantaneous communication between America and Europe.

Samuel Morse became one of the most famous men in the world and acquired great wealth (much of which he donated to charity).

But Samuel made it clear:

“It is [God’s] work,” he wrote; “and He alone carried me thus far through all my trials and enabled me to triumph over the obstacles, physical and moral, which opposed me. ‘Not unto us, not unto us, but to Thy name, O Lord, be all the praise’”(3).

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, yes—“To Thy name, O Lord, be all the praise”—in spite of the trials and obstacles that threaten. Thank you for the legacy of saints like Samuel Morse who teach us that even difficulties and disappointments have purpose: to teach us how to hope, persevere, and trust.

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/samuel-morse-the-artist-who-invented-the-morse-code/
  2. (https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1701-1800/the-amazing-morses-sam-and-jed-11630271.html
  3. https://crev.info/scientists/samuel-f-b-morse/

 

Sources:

  1. https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/samuel-morse-the-artist-who-invented-the-morse-code/
  2. (https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1701-1800/the-amazing-morses-sam-and-jed-11630271.html
  3. https://crev.info/scientists/samuel-f-b-morse/
  4. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-transatlantic-telegraph-cable-completed

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

P.S.    We received the wonderful news this afternoon:  Steve is now on the wait list (at least six months) for a liver transplant!  Thank you all for your continued prayers of healing for him.

 

(Cincinnati Music Hall)

 

Recently my daughter-in-love and granddaughter invited me to accompany them to “Sing Hallelujah, Cincinnati!”–an event at our city music hall.

Vocal groups and instrumentalists from the metropolitan area participated, presenting music around the theme, “Hallelujah.” The experience turned out to be much more than I expected.

First, a brass band came marching in from the back, playing a jazz rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”–New Orleans style. By the time they exited out a side door at the front, we weren’t just applauding, we were smiling.

The genial atmosphere created by Cincy Brass was further enhanced by the relaxed and friendly master of ceremonies, Mr. Dilworth. In his opening remarks, he explained the meaning of hallelujah: to express joy and to praise God. And that’s exactly what we did for the next hour or so.

 

 

First, Mr. Dilworth taught the audience a hallelujah song, one segment at a time. Then he challenged us with a descant part. The final effort combining tune and harmony turned out quite pleasing. We applauded again, for Mr. Dilworth’s talented direction and our surprisingly good performance. Now we were smiling even more broadly.

Perhaps Mr. Dilworth knows the research: “Singing corporately produces a chemical change in our bodies that contributes to a sense of bonding” (1).

For the rest of the evening, one choir and ensemble after another wowed us with a broad range of music, including classical, traditional, ethnic (Ukrainian and African), gospel, spiritual, bluegrass, and jazz.

 

 

What made the occasion distinctive, however, was the racial mix among performers and audience members. And as the evening unfolded, the music became a catalyst for unity among us—in spite of various ethnic groups and a wide variety of musical genre.

Even though all of the pieces sung and played could not possibly be everyone’s favored styles, the entire audience clapped (Some even gave a shout now and then!) in enthusiastic appreciation for all participants.

We were bonded together in a unity of gratitude.

Also among us flourished the unity of contentment. For one hour we sat companionably immersed in the mutual pleasure of music.  Any rough edges of tension that might cause strain in other circumstances were smoothed over on this occasion–by the hallelujahs of praise.

Finally, there was the unity of joy—evident in the continuous smiles and occasional laughter.

And where there is joy there is the presence of God (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

It’s probable not all participants and attendees were Christians. Most of the groups who performed would be categorized as secular.

But for this one evening, whether folks knew it or not, we drew close to God through grateful, contented, and joyful praise.   And as a glorious byproduct, found ourselves drawn closer to one another.

 

 

Note:

(1) Bob Kauflin (member of GLAD vocal band for thirty years), https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/words-of-wonder-what-happens-when-we-sing

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.jba.af.mil (Jordyn Fetter); http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

 

After running a few errands last Saturday, Steve and I stopped at Panera for soup, salad, and sandwich.

We’d been seated for a while when Steve said, “A few tables behind you are two young men, and the one facing this way is wearing a T-shirt that says, ASK ME FOR PRAYER. Great big block letters too. ”

“Interesting. ‘Haven’t seen that one before,” I commented.

“Do you suppose he means it?”

“It’s a bold statement; I’ll bet he does.”

When we’d finished our lunch, I headed to the cold drinks bar to refresh my tea; Steve headed to the table of the young man in the T-shirt.

(We never did exchange names, so I’ll call him Paul, because I can see the Apostle Paul wearing just such a shirt, if it were available in his day.)

By the time I reached their table, Steve had discovered Paul did indeed mean what was blazoned on his chest.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d put me on your prayer list,” Steve told him. “I’m facing some serious health problems right now.”

But Paul did not assure us that he would pray. Instead he said, “Let’s pray for you right now!”

He and his friend immediately stood up, laid their hands on Steve, and Paul prayed for him right in the middle of Panera—and very articulately.

 

 

With conviction he praised God for His power to heal every kind of disease and sickness. He thanked God for his compassion on those who suffer, and prayed for the Spirit to move in Steve’s body and restore him to health. Paul also prayed against the spiritual forces of evil that would try to attack–and all in the powerful name of Jesus.

 

 

We spoke for a few moments more, first thanking them for hitting the pause button on their lunch to minister to us. Steve told them he’d been a pastor for forty years; Paul said he was from Tennessee, just passing through Cincinnati.

On the way to our car Steve said, “That was the most genuine, thorough healing prayer I’ve heard in a long time.”

And it undoubtedly came from a righteous man. In just those few moments of contact we saw passion, sincerity, obedience to God, humility, and grace.

You might remember what God promised about the prayers of such a person:

 

 

I found myself wishing we’d asked Paul for his business card. Wouldn’t it be fun, perhaps a year from now or so, to share with Paul how God had answered every part of his prayer on behalf of Steve.

Then, I remembered.  Eventually Paul will know, because:

  • God knows everything (Isaiah 40:13-14).
  • And since God and his Son are One (John 1:18), Jesus knows everything.
  • And when Jesus returns, we’ll be like him (1 John 3:2), and then we will know everything too.

 

 

So, one day, “Paul” will realize the outcome of his prayer for that preacher named Steve, while he just happened to be in an out-of-state Panera restaurant, wearing his ASK-ME-TO-PRAY-FOR-YOU T-shirt.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise you, O God, for your excellent deeds–like engineering delightful, specially designed events.  What God is there in heaven or on earth who can do such marvelous and mighty works you do?  We also praise you for your acts of power–like healing, because you are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

(Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalm 77:14)

 

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.maxpixel.net.)

Radiant Love

 

It’s been said, St. Francis of Assisi contemplated the love of Christ until he caught the glow of His Spirit, which he went about radiating (1).

The operative word for me is contemplated, which means to look at pensively, to ponder or consider thoughtfully, to meditate on.

In St. Francis’ case, he chose to thoughtfully consider a simple subject: the love of Christ.

And the result was quite astounding. Francis glowed with the Spirit—so profoundly that others took note of his radiance.

By contrast, it stands to reason that worry and unrest are the direct result of misdirected or insufficient contemplation. In addition, no one can glow with the Spirit if thoughts of discontentment predominate.

For some, the love of Christ might seem too simple a subject and difficult to contemplate for very long. But if we challenge ourselves to scan the New Testament, we’ll discover many worthy thoughts to ponder about Jesus’ love.  Thoughts such as these:

First, his love for humanity compelled him to leave the perfection of heaven for a life of poverty on earth. Ultimately, he laid down his life so that we might become children of God and heirs of his immeasurable, heavenly riches (2).

 

 

While here on earth, Jesus made it clear he loves everyone, including:

  • Those whom others ignore, like blind beggars and penniless widows (3)
  • Those considered unimportant, like children (4)
  • Those whose sin tends to be concealed beneath the surface, like the rich young ruler (5)
  • Those no one else will go near, like lepers with ulcerated and decaying flesh (6)
  • Those who make mistakes, misunderstand truth, and bicker among themselves—like Jesus’ disciples (7)
  • Those who commit crimes, like the thief crucified with Jesus (8)
  • Even those who would try to kill him (9)

 

 

His love compels him to:

  • Seek after those who stray, never giving up until each one is safely home  (10)
  • Knock gently but persistently at the doors of our hearts, because he dearly wants us to enjoy fellowship with him (11)
  • Offer God-enhanced, blessing-abundant living now, with eternity in heaven to come (12)

 

 

Because he love us, Jesus wants to:

  • Draw us into his protective care, like a hen gathers her chicks (13)
  • Enjoy our company forever (14)
  • Reveal himself to us (15)—not in physical form (just yet!), but in the evidence of his loving kindness, righteousness, power and glory.
  • Protect us from fear by teaching us how to let peace stand guard over our hearts (16)
  • Fill us with all the fullness of God–his perfect attributes, generous blessings, and hope-saturated promises (17)

 

 

Nothing we say, nothing we do, nothing that happens to us can separate us from the love of Christ (18).

And “we are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement of his unspeakable love” (19).

No wonder St. Francis glowed.

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *   *

We do stand in awe, Lord Jesus, of the sweeping landscape of your love as revealed in scripture. And just as St. Francis of Assisi practiced careful contemplation centuries ago, may we continually ponder the expanse of your love—its breadth, length, height and depth.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Ralph W. Sockman, The Higher Happiness
  2. 2 Corinthians 8:9; John 15:13; 1 John 3:1; Ephesians 2:7
  3. Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 8:16
  4. Mark 10:13-16
  5. Mark 10:21
  6. Matthew 8:3
  7. Acts 1:6; Mark 8:14-21; Luke 9:46
  8. Luke 23:39-43
  9. Luke 23:34
  10. Matthew 18:11-13
  11. Revelation 3:20
  12. John 10:10; 3:16
  13. Matthew 23:37
  14. John 14:3
  15. John 14:21
  16. 1 John 4:18; Philippians 4:6-7
  17. Ephesians 3:19
  18. Romans 8:35-38
  19. John Owen (1616-1683), English theologian

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

What contemplation of Jesus’ love makes your heart glow?  Share your thoughts in the Comment section below!

 

 

 

Numerous times in the Bible we’re reminded that the Lord is our strength. We’re promised that out of his infinite power he will supply the wherewithal to withstand any strain, force, or stress.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we avail ourselves of God’s glorious might?

The answer may lie in just three strategies: affirm, trust, and thank.

 

1) AFFIRM such scriptural realities as God’s sovereignty over all things, his power at work on our behalf, and his constant, loving presence to sustain us (1).

 

 

We can direct our thoughts toward the promises he’s made to help, guide, and protect (2). In fact, scripture contains dozens of promises that offer hope and encouragement for any situation, because:  “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV).

 

 

Asserting biblical truth hour by hour, even moment by moment, results in spiritual strength, much as repetitive moves with weights build physical strength.

Also beneficial to affirm: what we’ve seen God do in the past. Has a surprise check arrived in the mail—almost to the penny of what was needed? Have you escaped a car collision by that much? Has the answer to a prayer far exceeded the request? God has granted such miracles in our family, too.

 

 

 

And that brings us to the second strategy, trust.

 

2) TRUST that the God of perfection will be true to his Word and keep his promises.

But when fretful thoughts do threaten, we can bring them before God with total honesty, just as King David did in the psalms (3). Next, we can return to the Affirm Strategy (above)—which David also embraced. Third, we simply do the next thing, refusing to worry about tomorrow.

 

 

And a trusting heart is a thankful heart.

 

3) THANK God at every opportunity. Even in the midst of trials, we can find joy:

  • In Him and all his glorious attributes
  • In his Word, where we find comfort and encouragement
  • In creation, with all his meticulous handiwork and grand displays
  • In the people around us, with their expressions of loving concern and help
  • Through the five senses, providing unlimited delight

And the joy of the Lord will be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

 

These three strategies–affirming, trusting, and thanking—will enable us to move through each day with grace and a light spirit, just as a deer gracefully and lightly clears obstacles and scales rocky peaks, because:

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Lord, keep me mindful that no one is exempt from trouble in this sin-wracked world, but you rule supreme and will engineer good even from the worst of circumstances. Help me to be ever-conscious of the ways I can avail myself of your strength. And may I learn not just to withstand stressful times, but actually flourish in the midst of them.

 

 

Notes:

(1) 1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Isaiah 64:4; Deuteronomy 31:6

(2) Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 32:8 & 12:5b

(3) Psalm 10, 13, 31, and 102 offer examples of psalms that begin with lament and end with praise.

 

P.S. A personal update: Steve received his first chemo treatment this week to keep the cancer from growing and spreading to other organs as we wait for a liver transplant. The anti-cancer drug was applied directly to the tumors. We were warned he might experience pain, nausea, fever, and/or other side effects. But except for some discomfort and fatigue he has been fine. We continue to praise God for his faithfulness!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.christianqotes.info; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.brainyquote.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.brainquotes.org.)

 

????????????????????????????

 

Our son was telling me about the church he and his wife attended at the time.

“You should hear this mother and daughter play their violins together.  The girl is only ten or eleven, but she’s good. I think the mom is teaching her.”

Several months later, I happened to be visiting when the mother and daughter were scheduled to play.  My heart was filled with delicious anticipation that Sunday morning as they approached the piano with their violins.

Soon soft, mellow notes of melody and harmony resonated through the broad, high-ceilinged sanctuary.  My son had not been exaggerating. They were both gifted violinists.

 

 

I had to hold back the tears.

Yes, the sweet music touched my spirit. However, my response arose from more than that.

The music was greatly enhanced by the mystical bond between mother and daughter.

One evidence of that bond was the subtle means by which the two remained in sync. The mother would nod her head or sway slightly as she directed the music.

However, the girl didn’t actually watch. Just every now and then she would make eye contact over her violin–and smile at her mother with angelic innocence, tenderness, and purity.

Her eyes seemed to say, “I love doing this with you.”  Mother smiled her love and pleasure in return.

In fact, the very atmosphere seemed to be permeated with love during those moments. But the affection of parent and child was only a part.

The Spirit of God and his love flowed in wondrous waves through the music and that mother and daughter. God’s love—the width, length, height, and depth that Paul spoke of– filled every nook of that sanctuary.

 

 

Surely I was not the only one who felt wrapped in God’s warm embrace during those moments.

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

He is the Master of the universe and the King of glory. Angels sing his praises continually. And yet he delights in us, who reverence him and put our hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

 

 

Isn’t that knowledge alone enough to astound the intellect and overwhelm the heart with joy?

The only possible response is worship, from a heart overflowing with gratitude. An overflow that often becomes tears, as praise intertwines with the invisible but palpable touch of God.

And I can almost hear him say, “I love doing this with you.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When has the overflow of love for God and gratitude to him brought you to tears?  Please share your story in the Comment section below!

 

(Revised and reblogged from August 11, 2014.  Photo credits:  www.visualphotos.com, http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.)

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