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Some time ago, wise-and-insightful blogger Michele Morin (over at Living Our Days) shared that she was journaling through some of the old hymns. Isn’t that a brilliant idea?

I imagined her digging into the meaning of some of the rich language and theology, personalizing the truths, and/or using them as the basis for prayer.

Most often we sing through the lyrics so quickly we miss their full significance. But if we intentionally slow our thinking by putting pen or pencil to paper, we make room for wonderful blessings to emerge—blessings like increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Our contemplations can become worship.

So far I’ve journaled through seven hymns. For Advent I chose to contemplate a Christmas carol: Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” which offers both rich language and theology. (The story behind the song is also interesting. You can read it here: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”)

Over the next three weeks we’ll savor the three best-known verses of this carol. No doubt you’re familiar with the first:  

My journaled prayer included the following.

“Hark!” the hymn writer begins, inviting me to listen with close attention. His lyrics take me back in time to that night when angels declared life-transforming news for those who embrace it:

A new King has been born—a king like no other (1)!

That’s YOU, Lord Jesus. You are the Prince of Peace, the One who offers inner tranquility to all who desire it (2), and universal, all-encompassing peace when the new heaven and the new earth are established (3).

I praise You, O Christ, for Your comforting peace

that steadies me and gives me hope.

You’re the One who bestows mercy—tender-hearted forgiveness—when I confess the wrongs I’ve committed. You’re the One who put ultimate mercy into action by “being obedient to God and dying a criminal’s death on a cross” (4).

I praise You, O Christ, for your unceasing mercy.

You have not punished me

the way I deserve, and You never will.

You’re the One who reconciled me to God (5). First, You chose to do the unthinkable, to die in my place and pay the penalty for every sin I commit.

Then You restored my broken relationship with God, as I put my trust in You and accepted Your free gift of eternal life. Because of You, I have right standing with God and access into His presence at any time.

I praise You, O Christ, for your unimaginable sacrifice,

making the impossible possible.

For all these blessings (and so much more) I rise up with Jesus-followers from around the world to sing joyful praise to You (6)!

Our voices join those of the angels to give you glory (7)–celebrating Your attributes, rejoicing in Your excellent works, and taking pleasure in the privilege of being sons and daughters of Almighty God.

I praise You, O Christ, for leaving the wonders of heaven

to be born in the humble village of Bethlehem

and live among ignoble humanity—

all for our benefit.

I praise You, O Christ, for the incredible FREE gift

of eternal ecstasy in paradise with You.

And I praise You for being my compassionate Christ,

my glorious Emancipator, and my powerful King!

Notes:

  1. Revelation 1:5-6
  2. Romans 5:1
  3. 2 Peter 3:13
  4. Philippians 2:8 TLB
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
  6. Psalm 67:4
  7. Psalm 148:11-13

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.openclipart.com and http://www.canva.com; http://www.negativespace.com (3); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net.

The Least Gifts

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear readers!

Overflowing

Take a walk over wooded hills and chances are you’ll encounter a spring-fed, babbling brook, tumbling over rocks and ever-flowing to its mouth.

Just the sound of it refreshes the soul.

Perhaps in his travels, the Apostle Paul encountered spring-fed brooks, and God brought them to his mind as inspiration for this instruction:

Let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

–Colossians 2:7c MSG

Such a lovely image of refreshing, ever-flowing gratitude.

Paul urged his readers to be thankful seven times in the four-chapters of Colossians, and forty more times in his other epistles.

Now why would God inspire Paul to encourage gratitude so often?

Surely God wanted us to discover that when we seek to be thankful, we find our trust growing. Look at all these wonderful ways God is blessing and investing in my life, we begin to realize. He IS a good and loving Father; I CAN depend on him!

Perhaps Paul himself had learned: the more we thank, the more we see to be thankful for.

“The grumbler undoubtedly sees few blessings;

The grateful person finds blessings everywhere.

In fact, blessings seem to find her.

J. E. Yoder (1)

I also like Warren Wiersbe’s reason for cultivating gratitude: “When a believer is abounding in thanksgiving, he is really making progress!”

Surely this was one of Paul’s strong desires—that all Jesus-followers make progress toward becoming all that God intends them to be.

But gratitude doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes we’re more likely to be overwhelmed by our worries than overflowing with thankfulness. Or we’d rather talk about our woes in order to gain sympathy than share our blessings in order to encourage.

So how do we open the channels of our hearts to let gratitude flow?

We might begin with a daily (perhaps hourly ) habit of giving thanks for the benefits we enjoy—no matter what our circumstances—even if the family is in turmoil, or friends have proved unfriendly, or trouble has dropped in our laps.

As noted, ever-flowing gratitude refreshes the soul.  

Perhaps we could begin with these five blessings:

  • The indescribable gift of Christ and all he offers
  • Rescue from the powers of darkness
  • God’s glorious attributes at work in our lives—his goodness, grace, compassion, and more
  • The precious, life-changing truths of scripture
  • God’s constant presence with us (2)

Of course there are many more. We’d do well to keep a written list of such ever-present blessings, ready to refer to when the flow of our gratitude is blocked by disappointment or discouragement.

And at the top of the list we might copy this wonderful reassurance:

There is always good because there is always God . . .

Even when nothing else around us is good,

his presence in the midst of our deepest pain

is a good gift indeed.

Aliza Latta (3)

Picture a glass of water so full it will not hold another drop. Now what if you bump against it? The water is bound to spill over. Similarly, when trouble bumps against us, what’s inside will overflow.

Out of an angry person will come anger, out of a fearful person will come fear, out of a self-centered person will come self-pity. (I have been all three of these people at one time or other!)

But a grateful person? He/she overflows with gratitude, cheering and soothing the soul like a babbling brook. In addition, their trust in God grows and greater maturity develops. Best of all, their thankfulness delights God.

As the Lord loveth a cheerful giver,

So likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.

John Boys (4)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, keep me mindful that no matter what I face, there are ALWAYS reasons to rejoice. I don’t want to give in to anger, fear, or self-pity. I want my living to spill over into thanksgiving—a superior way to spend my days and bring you glory as well.

Notes:

  1. Our Daily Bread
  2. 2 Corinthians 9:15; Colossians 1:13; Psalm 145:7-8ff; Psalm 119:72, 93, 103; Psalm 23:4
  3. Take Heart, 16
  4. Dean of Canterbury from 1619-1625, quoted in A Puritan Golden Treasury

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

How to Gain Confidence

Whitney sought a foothold and pulled herself up, then changed her hand grips and found another foothold above the previous one. Slowly she inched her way up the 40-foot climbing wall. Though only her first attempt, the four-year-old showed no fear.

Dad recorded the feat, and the video is available on YouTube.

We marvel that such a young child could climb with such confidence. But Whitney knew she was tethered to a rope held secure by the belayer, who also gave wise advice as she climbed. And Dad offered encouragement the whole way up and down.

When she touched ground again, Whitney’s broad smile indicated her delight in conquering the wall.

And the preschooler’s experience proves:

Security, wisdom, and encouragement

contribute to confidence. 

What held true during that preschooler’s rock-climb holds true for us in life. We need a strong Belayer to keep us secure, wise instruction to help us succeed, and inspiring encouragement to help us persevere.

Security

First, our Belayer is God himself. He holds us fast and will never let us go.[1]

And just as Whitney’s security did not depend on her gripping the rope, our security of help, strength, and heaven-to-come doesn’t originate with our grip on God, but his forever grip on us.[2] What we cannot do for ourselves, he has accomplished.[3]

Just as Whitney put her trust in the belayer, we must actively trust God to be our lifeline.

Wisdom

A short distance up the wall, Whitney glanced toward the floor. The belayer wisely advised, “Don’t look down, Whitney! Keep looking up!”

She didn’t look down until the belayer gave her instructions for the descent.

God also offers wise advice through his Word. He wants us to know:

  • True wisdom comes from him.
  • It begins with reverence and humility before God, to be in awe of his holiness, his power over all things–including life and death.
  • He gladly provides this gift to all who ask.
  • Whoever heeds his wisdom will dwell secure.[4]

Encouragement

Last, we have a Father who encourages us, just as Whitney’s dad encouraged her through that rock-climb. Again, what we need is found in scripture—passages such as these that inspire hope:

  • “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
  • “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11).
  • “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Of course there are hundreds more, assuring us that:

When I allow fearful thoughts to whirl in my mind, I’m really asking, Is God going to see me through this?

How much better to affirm that God will hold me fast until he’s ready to take me home to heaven. He will provide the wisdom and guidance I need for what lies ahead, just as he has in the past,. And His Word will continue to offer encouragement, to inspire and strengthen.

Truth leads to confidence.

What contributes to your confidence when facing challenging situations? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] Psalm 37:23-24

[2] https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/secure-forever-in-christ/

[3] Romans 8:3-4

[4] Proverbs 2:7; 1:7, James 1:5; Proverbs 1:33

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com (Noah Berger); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org.

I remember the moment; I don’t remember when it took place . . . perhaps in young adulthood, during my quiet time. A Bible verse caught my attention–John 17:21–causing my eyes to widen and fill with tears.

First, a bit of context. That chapter includes Jesus’ prayer after the Last Supper and mere hours before the crucifixion. He asked his Father to sustain him, to manifest God’s power through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and in so doing, prove that Jesus was the Son of God (vs. 1-5).[1] 

Second he prayed for his disciples—for their protection, joy, spiritual growth, and unity (vs. 6-18).

And then (wonder of wonders!) Jesus prayed for you and me, his future followers!

“I pray also for those who will believe in me,” he said (v. 20, emphasis added).

I read on with eager expectation. What did he ask God to do on our behalf? Strength to endure? Guidance for wise choices? Kind and generous hearts?

Those are worthwhile prayers, but it would seem Jesus left those for us to request.

Instead, he prayed for one over-arching blessing to characterize his believers: unity.

“I pray that they may all be one, Father!

May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

John 17:21a GNT

Among all the things we need as his followers, why would Jesus pray for unity? We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, we need to understand he wasn’t praying for uniformity, expecting his followers to agree on every issue. The apostle Paul and his co-missionary Barnabas disagreed over their young companion Mark (Acts 15:37-39), and godly men throughout church history have taken different sides of various issues: Martin Luther with Huldrych Zwingli, John Wesley with George Whitefield, and John Stott with Martyn Lloyd-Jones—to name a few.

It’s doubtful Jesus expected his followers to grow into one big denomination. What he did desire was a spirit of love and an attitude of grace to bind us together, equipping us to overlook differences of preference and tradition. He’d have us focus on what we have in common.

At the Christian university I attended, all students were required to take the course, Philosophy and Christian Thought. One of our textbooks (a very thick one!) was titled, The Protestant Faith. And though the differences between denominations were certainly laid out, I was struck by how much doctrine and theology we share in common—much more than what divides us.

That’s what we need to concentrate on: the foundational truths like those we recite in the Apostles’ Creed, and our purpose of introducing others to Christ as well as taking delight in obeying him and growing more like him.

Even more important? A covering of love—love that admits wrong, forgives grievances, allows for differences of opinion on nonessentials, and doesn’t dishonor others but seeks the best for them.

Last but foremost: we must continually look to Jesus through prayer and worship, privately and publicly.

Perhaps you remember A. W. Tozer’s illustration. If one hundred pianos are all tuned to the same fork, they’re automatically in tune with each other. Similarly, if one hundred worshipers look to Christ, they’re going to be much more in tune with one another than if they focus on other matters, worthwhile as they might be. That would include unity itself.[2]

And now to answer that question, why would unity be so important to Jesus? His reason is revealed at the end of John 17:21.

“May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

John 17:21b GNT

The world is plagued by ugly divisiveness, hatred, and vitriol.

Jesus desired his followers to be characterized by the beauty of unity as we strive to love like him—overlooking slights, sidestepping fights, and giving up our rights.[3]

When people witness such beauty, there will be those who desire it for themselves and come to faith in Christ.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, point out those areas where my preferences and opinions interfere with my love for your people. Help me put aside differences and focus on areas of commonality. May I play an active part in the beauty of unity within my circle of influence, drawing others to you.   


[1] Barnes Notes on the Bible, www.biblehub.com.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 90.

[3] Patsy Clairmont, Boundless Love, 236.

Art & photo credits: http://www.commons.wikimedi.org; http://www.flickr.com (Long Thien); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (Peter Swain); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.rawpixel.com.

If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.flickr.com (Nicolas Huk); http://www.commonswikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.publickdomainpictures.net; http://www.commons wikimedia.org.

The Ultimate Pleasure

Long ago in Sunday School, our teachers taught us proper respect for God.  The rules of reverence included:

  • Be quiet and solemn in worship
  • Bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands to pray
  • Always treat God’s house with utmost respect

The first rule proved the most difficult to keep. I failed many a Sunday. My legs wanted to swing, my hands wished for crayons and paper, my eyes longed for a book. Would the sermon ever end?!

Years later I came across the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a collection of 107 questions and answers explaining the Christian faith. The list began with, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer shocked me.

The first part made perfect sense. Paul made it clear: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  But the second part caught me off guard.

Enjoy God?

His blessings and benefits certainly brought me joy. But God himself? How could I enjoy Someone who’s invisible?

Over time I’ve discovered that, although God deserves the utmost reverence and respect, we need not always be solemn. We can laugh and sing for joy in his presence (Psalm 68:3 MSG).

In fact, enthusiastic praise of God, especially in the company of others, is an invigorating way to enjoy him–reveling in who he is—our God of goodness, grace, and love.

We can also celebrate what he’s done—supplying our needs, guiding the way, and surprising us with gifts we didn’t even ask for.

While we’re worshiping, we can lift our hands toward God (Psalm 63:4), augmenting our connection to him. Even hands placed palms up on the lap can add to our enjoyment.

Steve and I learned this posture from one of his seminary professors. After a teaching session on prayer, Dr. Stanger instructed us to place our hands in our laps, palms up.

We sat in silence for a few moments, and suddenly I felt a tingling in my hands! Was the Spirit of God actually holding my hands as we prepared to pray?!

Dr. Stanger explained: the pressure on the backs of our hands caused the phenomenon.   But wasn’t it wonderful to imagine God gracing each of us with his personal touch in this way?

Yes, supremely delightful!

We can also take the celebration outside and enjoy God as Creator and King of the universe. For example, look to the sky and contemplate the galaxies of stars. Smile at him in wonder because of their incomprehensible magnitude and indescribable beauty. Consider too, they’re all under his control.

Another way to enjoy God is to delight in his scripture. We can proclaim appreciation to him for the strength, comfort, and peace his Word provides, as well as those passages that bring joy to our hearts (Psalm 119:111).

Those of us who like to write find great pleasure in composing journal entries, poetry, personal psalms, and more, addressed to God, as a way of expressing our delight in him.

Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, has inspired some of us to follow her example and go a step further: record thoughts or impressions we receive from God as we wait and listen in his presence (Psalm 25:5; 85:8).

In these ways and more God has made it possible for us to continually enjoy him.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Dare I say it?  Is it too irreverent? You are FUN, God! I love spending time with you, rejoicing in you, celebrating your works, reveling in your presence, taking delight in our mutual communication.

What a glorious privilege you’ve granted us, Father, to nestle close to you and experience fullness of joy forevermore!

(Psalm 100:1-2; John 10:27; Psalm 65:2; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 16:11)

(Revised and reblogged from March 15, 2015, while I recover from Covid. My husband tested positive last Wednesday; I succumbed on Saturday. Symptoms have been uncomfortable but tolerable for both of us; we’re on the mend! ‘Will try to write a fresh post for next week.)

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikimediacommons.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

Genius Extraordinaire

Mr. Ribeau studied young Michael’s work, checking for crooked stitches and traces of glue. But after just two years of training, the young book-binding apprentice was already quite proficient.

“You’ve done a fine job, my boy!” Mr. Ribeau praised.

A small smile curled on Michael’s face. “Thank you, sir. This is the last book for today. May I go work on my experiments, please?”

Mr. Ribeau chuckled. “Of course. Off with you!” 

Michael scurried to the back room where his master had given him space to investigate his favorite subject: electricity.

Interest had begun five years before in 1803 when Michael became an errand boy for Mr. Ribeau. Michael would read the books that came into the London shop for binding. Even though he attended school for just two years, Michael read with competence.

The volumes on science especially intrigued him, and he desired to conduct his own experiments. Kind Mr. Ribeau had made it possible. He also provided extra pennies now and then to attend scientific lectures.

Another book captured Michael’s attention: The Improvement of the Mind by the famous hymn-writer, Isaac Watts. Michael determined to follow Watts’ advice including: read worthwhile books, take thoughtful notes, and “ever maintain a virtuous and pious frame of spirit.”

No doubt Michael’s heart was primed for such a book, since he came from a Christian home. And as he grew into manhood, Michael embraced his faith in Jesus with ever-maturing dedication. 

One day Mr. Ribeau presented Michael with four passes to attend presentations by Sir Humphrey Davy, a renowned chemist. At each lecture, Michael took careful notes. Later he bound them into a beautiful book.

Sir Humphrey Davy

In 1811 at age nineteen, Michael completed his apprenticeship, but had no desire to become a bookbinder. Though just a tradesman with little schooling, he sought a position with one of the scientific institutions, including Sir Davy’s prestigious Royal Institution.

With that application, he sent his precious notebook from Davy’s lectures, hoping to convince the great chemist of his passion for the sciences. But no position was available.

In 1813 an invitation arrived for Michael to interview with Davy, and he was hired as a laboratory assistant. Michael quickly proved himself, assisting Sir Davy at his lectures. Six months later, Davy selected Michael to accompany him on a two-year lecture tour through Europe.

When they returned, Michael pursued his scientific studies with passion. He researched steel, hoping to make it stronger. He sought to improve lighthouse lamps, prevent corrosion of ships, clean up the pollution in the Thames, and preserve art works and sculptures.  

Young Michael Faraday

Michael was the first person to liquefy chlorine and discovered a new element, later named benzene, that’s used in dyes, nylon, and plastics. Further discoveries included the process that produced refrigeration and the potential use of ether as an anesthetic.

But he didn’t neglect his first love, electricity. Michael invented the transformer and the dynamo that created electricity without a battery. His discoveries also paved the way for the electric motor. In fact, Michael Faraday has been called “the scientific genius who gave electricity to the world” (1).

Such research propelled Michael into elite circles. He became director of the Royal Institution where he’d begun as an assistant to Sir Davy. Oxford University awarded him a doctorate, and he was invited to become a member—even president–of the prestigious Royal Society. He declined the position.

Michael Faraday lecturing at the Royal Institution: Prince Albert and his sons in the audience. Wood engraving, 1856, after A. Blaikley. Contributors: Alexander Blaikley. Work ID: xt5crqqq.

In spite of great success, Michael Faraday remained a humble man, uninterested in the fortune he could have amassed, manufacturing his inventions.

To Michael, the pursuit of scientific studies was a holy calling, and to understand even a fraction of nature’s workings was a gift from God (2) –much more valuable than money.

But not all his waking hours were devoted to science. Faraday was an active church member, serving as elder for more than 20 years, frequently leading in worship and even preaching.

Faraday also demonstrated faith-in-action. For example:

He proved himself a forgiving man on many occasions. One time the elders removed him from their circle—even church membership for awhile–because he accepted an invitation from Queen Victoria for Sunday lunch, which meant he couldn’t be at church. 

But Michael continued to attend services and remained cordial to all, including those who’d hurt him.

Michael demonstrated grace. He and Sir Davy differed in opinion more than several times, but the younger scientist always expressed admiration for his mentor.

Michael’s generosity was also well known. He supported charities and visited the poor. And when his mother became widowed, he also supported her.

Throughout his career Michael expressed gratitude to God that he, a poor, uneducated tradesman should be privileged to explore the beauty and synchronization of God’s physical laws of creation.  

In 1861, the aging Faraday wrote to a friend, “The contemplation of death [is] a comfort—not a fear. Such peace is alone in the gift of God. . . His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope” (3).

Michael Faraday proved himself a man of intelligence and integrity, but also of strong faith in God, and in the end, peace.

Michael Faraday. Photograph by W. Walker & Sons. Work ID: hjz8gkmw.

Isaac Watts would have been pleased, and no doubt so is God (Psalm 147:11).

Notes:

1. https://www.revshirelymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

2. https://crev.info/scientists/michael-faraday/

3. Ibid

Sources:

https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/michael-faraday-gods-power-and-electric-power/

Heroes of the Faith: Michael Faraday

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/drinking-from-a-fount-on-sundays

https://christiantoday.com.au/news/michael-faraday-his-christian-faith-influenced-his-science.html

https://creation.com/michael-faradaygods-power-and-electric-power

Michael Faraday

https://www.revshirleymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

Art & photo credits: rawpixel.com (2); http://www.lookandlearn.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.lookandlearn.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.lookandlearn.com.

Better Than Optimism

Perhaps you’ve also heard these definitions:

  • A pessimist is a person who is seasick during the entire voyage of life.
  • An optimist is a person who goes in a restaurant with no money, and fully expects to pay for his meal with the pearl he finds among the oysters that he plans to order.
  • A realist is a person who does precise guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.

M-m-m. According to those tongue-in-cheek definitions, who would aspire to any of these three attitudes?

Truth be told, pessimists often do identify worst-case scenarios and sometimes think God doesn’t care or he’d intervene. Optimists can believe God will always make good things happen, if we just have enough faith. Realists might not focus on the negative, yet still be cautious about expecting God’s involvement in their circumstances.

But what if he desires that we expect great things–things like strength to endure, help to solve problems, provision for needs, and guidance for decisions? Nineteenth century pastor/author Andrew Murray suggested:

It occurred to me that we Jesus-followers might aim past pessimism, realism, or optimism, toward up-timism. No, you won’t find that word in Webster’s. But according to the Nancy Ruegg Dictionary of Words We Need the up-timist looks up toward God, trusting that out of his love, goodness, and wisdom, he will do what is right.

Up-timists also take to heart the promises of scripture, they remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and affirm who he is in all his glorious attributes.

This doesn’t mean up-timists are perpetually giddy with cheer. But even as tears of pain or grief course down their cheeks, they rest in their Heavenly Father with joy. They’ve learned how to be “sorrowful but always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Consider these words from the great preacher Charles Spurgeon: “We ought to be glad and rejoice forever in that which God creates. Ours is a heritage of joy and peace. My dear brothers and sisters, if anybody in the world ought to be happy, we are the people. . . How boundless our privileges! How brilliant our hopes!”[1]

These words were penned when Spurgeon was deathly ill. Though he rallied for a time, the great theologian graduated to heaven six months later.

In the letter to his people excerpted above, he included a main characteristic of the up-timist: hope.

Hope is the confident expectation that God will use our painful circumstances for good . . . it’s what allows us to choose to rejoice amid hardships and to say to God, “I will rejoice in You.”[2]

By contrast, pessimists are often characterized by fatalism, realists by over-confidence in their own perceptions, and optimists by wishful thinking.

But up-timists affirm such confident expectations as these:

  • The Lord preserves those who are true to him . . . Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:23-24).
  • Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:5-6).
  • You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word (Psalm 119:114).

Hope isn’t an automatic response in times of hardship, even for up-timists. We have to exercise our determination. One way is to speak truth to ourselves–with conviction. The scriptures listed above offer a good place to start.

Other truths include:

  • I know God has a purpose in this circumstance (Proverbs 19:21).
  • I know God will bring me through (Isaiah 40:29-31).
  • I know God is a good and loving Father, and he’s working toward the eternal perfection of his kingdom, for the benefit of all who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Note how God is at the center of the up-timist’s hope. She expects God to work in her life and in the world, anticipates the fulfillment of his promises, and looks forward to seeing his will unfold.

Note also that “hope doesn’t change what we see, like the lens of optimism or pessimism, hope changes us to withstand the journey this side of heaven with enduring joy, peace, and contentment.”[3]

So–would you describe yourself as an up-timist? How does that point of view impact your life? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] https://www.epm.org/blog/2019/Oct/23/godly-optimism.

[2] Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, 95.

[3] Kim Striver, https://www.coreradiate.com/blog/optimist

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com.

Secrets and Smiles

Over the years I’ve prayed for a number of people who didn’t even know I was praying—people like:

  • The family of a toddler with a brain tumor
  • a tollbooth worker struggling to make ends meet*
  • the young wife anxious to become a mother

No doubt you’ve also prayed in secret for strangers, unbeknownst to them.

Rarely do we receive updates concerning these people. But one day in heaven, we just may hear their miracle-stories. And won’t it be thrilling to know we played a part through the privilege of prayer?

Secret Prayers

Sara Hagerty in her book Unseen wrote about secret prayers, but has taken the practice to a whole new level—a level I aspire to. Sara silently prays for strangers she happens to see while going about her day:

  • the man in a wheelchair, that he might experience God’s strength
  • the woman with vacant eyes, that God would fill her needful heart
  • the man running to his gate at the airport, that he would run with God

The anonymity of such petitions gives Sara warm satisfaction, and no doubt puts a smile on her face.

Might God smile also? I think so.

It’s occurred to me that we experience other kinds of secrets with our Heavenly Father, and they too make us smile together with him.

Consider:

Secret Deeds

  • M. often wipes down the sink area in public restrooms and then washes her hands. It’s M.’s secret delight to provide this small blessing for the next person.
  • For years Norma frequently walked for exercise along a busy street, picking up refuse with a trash-grabber, then stuffing it into a grocery sack. After covering about a mile on each side, Norma would smile with satisfaction at the pristine street before turning the corner toward home.
  • My husband will often strike up a conversation with restaurant waiters or waitresses. If they’re not too busy he’ll share a bit about the difference God has made in our lives, how he’s provided for us in amazing ways. Then, before we leave, Steve puts a generous tip on the table. It makes us smile to imagine their looks of happy surprise at first glimpse of those bills. And we pray they see the goodness of God behind the gift and seek him for themselves.

Surely God smiles as well. 

Secret Moments

One category would be those times when one of his wild creatures approaches in holy proximity:

  • The hummingbirds who hover close enough to touch as if to say, “Thank you for the flower buffet in the deck planter!”
  • The doe that stood at the bottom of the deck stairs one morning when I exited the kitchen door. I froze; she froze. We stared at one another for long moments before she gracefully sauntered into the trees.
  • The red admiral butterfly that rested on my knee one afternoon, allowing me to marvel at his colorations, the wingtip scallops and tiny stripes on his antennae.

I can’t help but smile in delight at God’s creativity, artistry, and workmanship—especially when observed up close and personal. And while reveling in such exceptional moments, I like to think he smiles too.

Secret Blessings

  • Our youngest granddaughter recently climbed into my lap and nestled for a minute or so—unusual for a child always on the go. You grandparents out there know the special pleasure of each snuggle!
  • Frequently over the years God has used song-lyrics to encourage me. On occasion I’m overcome by happy tears while experiencing his tender care through music.
  • My husband and I basked together under a dazzling full moon the night of my birthday. While gazing at its soft glow, I sensed afresh the soft glow of God’s love, joy, and peace in my spirit.

Moments like these cause smiles of gratitude as our Heavenly Father expresses his personalized goodness. And I’m convinced God smiles with us.

Finally, there’s one more pleasure not to be missed: Sharing secrets and smiles with our Lord fosters intimacy and draws us closer to him. Our challenge is not to miss them.

What secret and smile have you enjoyed recently with your Heavenly Father? Please share in the comment section below!

*You can read the full story at: https://nancyaruegg.com/2017/10/19/tollbooth-encounter/.

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org.

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