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Archive for March, 2014

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Supposedly, these housewife tips were circulated in the late 1800s:

“Have dinner ready, prepare yourself, be fresh-looking, clear away the clutter, prepare the children, minimize all noise, be happy to see him, listen to him (remember his topics of conversation are more important than yours), make him comfortable, take off his shoes, be a little gay.”

If that was the prevailing attitude, we might smugly comment, “That advice had to be written by a man.  As if the woman of the house hasn’t put in a long day already, cleaning, cooking, laundering, ironing, taking care of the children, and more.  Now she gets to wait on her husband?  Ridiculous!”

If exposed to enough old nonsense, such as the above, we’re likely to miss true gems.  We see an old picture, a copyright date from decades ago, and we think the article or book will be as worthwhile as those housewife tips.  But that’s not necessarily the case.

For example, do you recognize this gentleman?

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Allow me to introduce you to Desiderius Erasmus, born around 1467 in Holland.

Erasmus was a teacher, theologian, and author, critical of the Catholic church and its abuses of the time.  One belief held by the church hierarchy:  Scripture is much too complicated for the common man to understand.  Only priests should have access to the Bible, and they are the only ones qualified to interpret for the masses.

Erasmus wrote:  “I disagree very much with those who are unwilling that the Holy Scripture…be read by the uneducated, as if Christ taught such intricate doctrines that they could scarcely be understood by very few theologians.”

Such writings helped prepare the way for Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

The common sense of Erasmus becomes obvious in more quotes such as these.

  • “If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you won’t do it and it won’t happen.”
  • “Prevention is better than cure.”
  • “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.”

Good advice, even if it is five hundred years old.

Throughout the centuries, women, too, have acquired wisdom to share. Unfortunately, most was never published.  In the male-dominated world of past generations, women were not offered that privilege.

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One exception is Julian of Norwich, born 1342.  She actually prayed for a serious illness to help her understand the sufferings of Jesus.  At age thirty, the illness came, accompanied by sixteen visions.  She spent the rest of her life meditating on her visions and writing about them.  Her book was the first written in English by a woman.  Here are several of her truth gems:

  • “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

Sounds like an addendum to Paul’s instruction to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4).  I appreciate the sweet motivation she offers for finding joy in each day.

  • “Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.”

Oh, yes.  The more we know of God, the more we direct our thoughts to Him, the more we enjoy Him!

  • “Of all the things our minds can think about God, it is thinking upon his goodness that pleases him most and brings the most profit to our souls.”

Again, such astute observations.  Even if formulated six hundred years ago.

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Thank you, Father, for preserving a wealth of evidence, confirming your presence and inspiration throughout the ages.  Thank you for the testimony of thousands of the saints from ages past. Their perseverance and faith continue to inspire us centuries later.  May we not be among those who ignore the wisdom you have already revealed. 

 

(Art and photo credits: http://www.bjws.blogspot.com; http://www.individual.utoronto.ca; www.trinitystores.com.)

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Year ago, someone wrote a tongue-in-cheek article, “What Your Favorite Color Says about You.”  It was quite amusing.  Sure wish I had saved it.  Alas.

Anyway, I remember thinking, Oh, this will be so much fun to share with the girls at lunch.  Those girls would be the other fourth grade teachers at my school.

Sure enough, my colleagues not only enjoyed it, they laughed till they cried.   In fact, I did, too.  A few times I could hardly get the words out before a giggle-fit would overpower me.

Had the happy-tears come while reading to myself?  No.  I don’t even think I laughed out loud.  Only when I shared it.

And once again I experienced the phenomenon:  To share a joy is to expand the joy.

It’s a blessing booster!

C.S. Lewis explained such occurrences this way (and with extreme eloquence, I might add):  “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”

Yet sharing joy to expand the joy is not the only way to appreciate more fully God’s blessings.

Paying attention to details also heightens our awareness of God’s glory around us.   Let’s face it:  How often do we miss his blessings because we’re so distracted?

I’m still striving to learn this blessing-booster:  living aware.  Too often my thoughts are focused on events, what-ifs, the to-do list.  I need to:

 

Spanish-moss

  • Take note of the graceful sway of Spanish moss in the trees.
  • Breathe deeply the aroma of a crisp spring morning.
  • Listen to the happy chirps of a sparrow.
  • Truly taste the nutty goodness of freshly brewed coffee (not just gulp it down).
  • Focus on the cool smoothness of a rose petal.

To live aware is to experience constant joy in the wonder around us.

Another blessing-booster is the natural result of living aware:  gratitude.   Expressing contentment for what we already have, even the little things, can profoundly effect our spirits.

For example, I am deeply grateful for:

 

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  • Steve’s three squeezes when he holds my hand.  It means, “I love you;”  and we’ve been passing that silent message back and forth for over forty years.
  • Color.  Any color of the rainbow.  God could have created the world in shades of gray.  It probably wouldn’t have mattered.  But the variety, the interest, and infinite number of combinations add such great pleasure to our lives.
  • The dimples on a baby’s hand.  The epitome of cuteness.

As I contemplate each one, I smile, because:  To be full of gratitude is be full of joy.

And perhaps that’s the best blessing-booster of them all.

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What blessing-booster expands your joy?  Tell us about it in the Comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  www.writeamberwrite.com; http://www.bridgetolife.de/administrator/moss-tree; http://www.peacefulplanetcommunication.com)

 

 

 

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Those words, “Life, Faith, and Finishing Well,” are actually the subtitle of Nearing Home (2011), by Billy Graham.

Most Americans recognize that name immediately.  In fact, people around the world know of the famous preacher.  For nearly fifty years, he held mass meetings in numerous large cities, and introduced millions to Jesus.  His radio program, television broadcasts, and writings have further expanded his renown.

After such a long, fruitful ministry, Dr. Graham has earned the right to tell us how to live well during our remaining days.

He includes practical advice, to answer such questions as:  When should I retire? What should I keep in mind as I plan for the golden years?  What legal issues should I settle so my children won’t have to?

Dr. Graham also inspires us with his wisdom:

  • ” Look for the Lord’s purpose in every circumstance and in every face or voice you encounter daily, for the time He has given you is not without purpose” (p. 38).
  • “Whatever you do, keep your mind and your body occupied; don’t give laziness or boredom a chance to take root in your soul” (p. 47).
  • God designs transitions and provides the grace to embrace what follows” (p. 165).

M-m-m.  Such advice would be helpful for the high school graduate heading off to college or the workplace, just as much as the senior citizen!

Billy also offers up much encouragement.  He names numerous senior citizens of the Bible and draws attention to the work God gave them to do.

The record of some we know well:

  • Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and the foundation for the Israelite nation was finally established.
  • Moses was 80 when he led the Israelites out of Egypt.
  • Daniel was still serving as prime minister of the Medo-Persian empire, at age 80.

Others are not so familiar:

  •  Barzillai,  age 80, helped to save the life of King David and his men (2 Samuel 17:28-29).
  • Jeremiah remained faithful to his prophet-calling, probably into his nineties
  • Haggai wrote his book of prophecy at age 70.

These men had probably slowed down a bit, compared to their energetic youth.  (Moses is the only exception.  Deuteronomy 34:7 tells us that, when he died at age 120, “his strength was not gone.”)  All of us, sooner or later, experience that life-shift from speed to sputter!

But slowing down is not the same as stopping.  “Retirement should not put us on a shelf,” says Dr. Graham (p. 28).  One option:  lift up others who are carrying heavy loads.  We can pray, encourage, and offer help as we’re able.

What else contributes to aging gracefully?  Age gratefully.   Follow Paul’s instruction, Philippians 4:8:

“You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise not things to curse” (The Message).

Again, just as applicable to a teenager as an octogenarian–and all of us in between.

Because no matter how old each of us might be, our foundations of faith can always use reinforcing.

(photo credit: http://www.homecomingmagazine.com.)

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As you undoubtedly know, Florida summers are long, hot, and humid.  Winter can vary from warm and humid to cold and damp.   In between we enjoy those glorious, balmy days the Sunshine State is famous for.

We also have a dry season through the winter months, and a wet season during the summer.   Our “wet” usually comes in a daily downpour, accompanied by much thunder and lightning.  In the southernmost parts of the state you can practically set your watch by the arrival of the afternoon storm.  The good news is, it’s almost always short-lived.

Then there are days like Monday, with dense cloud cover and a steady rain for hours.  Highly unusual, especially during the dry season.

For those planning a trip to the beach or a round of golf, it was a wash out.  (Sorry. Couldn’t resist the pun.)

For the bookish who didn’t have to go to work, it was a godsend.  Nothing cozier than curling up with a good book, to the patter of soft rain.

And for Tuesday, we could all look forward to crisp, clean air and vistas of sparkling greenery and flowers.

And we could remember:  “He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:2).

Yes.  God comes…

…with his love and grace to wash away the cloying dust of sin (Psalm 51:7).

…with his Word that refreshes our spirits (Deuteronomy 32:2).  Drop by drop, day by day, providing life-giving nutrients to our spirits.  Nutrients like strength, wisdom, and encouragement.

…with cleansing (2 Samuel 23:4).  He removes false-guilt, negativity, and fear.  In their place he provides freedom, contentment, and peace.

…with showers of joy and blessing (Ezekiel 34:26), to cast a fresh glow on our surroundings.  All day, every day he is bestowing love-gifts through creation, family, friends, circumstances, and pleasures great and small.

…to shower righteousness on all who claim Jesus as Savior (Hosea 10:12), not just a select few. Anyone can exchange his/ her smudges and stains of imperfections for his sparkling righteousness.

Oh, yes…

It’s raining, it’s pouring;

Our God we’re adoring!

His mercies fall fresh;

They are new every morning!

Hallelujah!

(Photo credit:  hdwallpapersuk.com.)

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Remember the legends of knights in shining armor, rescuing damsels in distress?

Many young girls have daydreamed about such a warrior, rescuing them from school ( in time to miss the math test, please), from irritating siblings (who mess with our stuff), and from chores (which are so boring).

But, Sir Lancelot never did ride his steed up the street, clank up to the front door, and announce his desire to marry the maiden of the household.  Warriors do not exist in today’s world.

Except, in a much more serious realm than fantasy land.

In the spiritual realm.

We have a Prayer Warrior.  Someone who is continually presenting to God Almighty our needs.

Sarah Roap Romans 8-26

“The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).

Think of it.  The Holy Spirit of God is praying for us!

When we’re highly distracted, and can’t keep our minds focused, the Spirit steps in and becomes our Champion.

During those times when we’re too distraught to put out thoughts into words, he comes to our aid.

When situations confound us, he knows what’s needed.

I’m thinking of the time our thirteen-year old daughter awoke us around 4:00 in the morning, because she was in terrible pain.  After explaining the situation to our older son, we bundled Heather into the van, and sped to the ER.

En route, she lay in the fetal position, moaning intermittently, and sometimes crying out when a severe spasm cramped her midsection.

Those long moments on the road and then waiting in the ER were tortuous.  I was the quintessential mother-in-distress, frustrated by helplessness and anxious about the outcome.  Putting together a coherent prayer was out of the question.

I just repeated silently in my heart, “Oh, Jesus.  Oh, Jesus.  Oh, Jesus.”

Was that enough?

If, at that moment, I could have glimpsed into the heavenly realm, I may have witnessed the Holy Spirit taking firm hold of the situation and speaking eloquently to God the Father on our behalf.

Then, he would have communicated the fear in our hearts “with intense groanings that words could not express.” He knew the height of our anxiety.  Words do not suffice at such a moment, any more than mere words can properly convey love or grief, or any number of emotions.

Ray Stedman (1917-1992), author and pastor, concluded:  “Language is not essential to Divine intercession.”  I agree.

God chose to intervene that morning.  A physical exam and sonogram revealed that a cyst was causing all the trouble.  Miraculously it burst on its own within hours of our arrival at the hospital.  Surgery was not necessary.  By 9:00, we were on our way home, with Heather resting comfortably.

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Oh, God, thank you for providing your Holy Spirit to come to our aid, to bear us up in our weakness.  We do not know how to pray as we ought, and sometimes we don’t even know what to pray.  

But your Spirit pleads on our behalf, even communicating unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for words.  And because you, your Spirit, and your Son, Jesus, are three-in-one, you know the Spirit’s every thought.  Inaudible prayers are more than sufficient.  

We praise you, oh God, for the depth of your loving provision, especially when circumstances spin out of control.

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com, www. dawnwhitmorespeaks.org.)

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“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Sound familiar? That’s the last verse of Psalm 23.

It turned up somewhere in my reading this week.  Can’t remember exactly where.

But I do remember thinking, Wait a minute.  Follow?  Why didn’t David say, “Surely goodness and mercy are with me?”  It doesn’t seem very helpful to have God’s goodness and mercy behind me.

After all these years of familiarity with this beloved psalm, I was suddenly quite puzzled.  What could David’s statement mean?

I started with the dictionary.  Did you know there are twelve different meanings for the verb,  follow?  Several of the definitions opened up new understanding for me.  See what you think:

1.  Follow means to be the result of, as in, “A discussion followed the presentation.”

God’s goodness and mercy are the result of availing ourselves of his shepherding, his watchful care and wise guidance (vs. 1-3).  We don’t have to beg for his loving kindness; it is automatically bestowed as we trust in God.  Isn’t that glorious?

“Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things.  Who, O God, is like you” (Psalm 71:19)?

But.   If we take a pass on his leadership, we have no right to expect his blessing.

2.  Follow means to keep to or stick to, as in “Follow these guidelines.”

The Bible scholars of GOD’S WORD Translation must have embraced this definition. “God’s goodness and mercy will stay close to me,” they wrote.  One commentator said these attributes of God cling to us.  I like that, too.

3.  Follow means to pursue, to move behind with the intention of overtaking as in “The detectives followed the suspect.”

Isn’t that wonderful imagery, of God pursuing us with his goodness and mercy and never giving up?

Those translators who have chosen stay close to me, or pursue, do enlighten our understanding.  But one truth of David’s statement is best served with the more familiar verb, follow:  We often don’t see God’s goodness and mercy until the experience has passed.  It’s in looking back we see that he did pursue us and cling to us, lavishly imparting all his attributes.

For example, ever have one of those weeks when the to-do list is long, and there seems no way to accomplish it all?  I’ve seen God engineer circumstances so that an item or two could be postponed, another one or two are cancelled, and a few don’t take as long as expected.  One way or another, the list of tasks is checked off. And with a sigh of relief I look back and realize God had been following me, taking care of things as the week progressed.

“He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth” (Daniel 6:27).  Even for one woman with too much to do.

Every time God demonstrates his close attention, I try to record the incident in my blessings journal.  Watching that list grow has increased my faith; all the experiences have taught me I can continue to trust.   The goodness and mercy of God will follow me all the days of my life.

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Oh, Father, I marvel to think your continual presence is close to me.  I can turn to you at any moment and you are there, ready and waiting to minister to my needs. Out of your goodness you give me countless blessings that I don’t deserve; out of your mercy you have withheld consequences for my sin that I do deserve.  Thank you for pursuing me with patience, gentleness, and compassion. 

Now may I be passionate to follow you, all the remaining days of my life.  “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  How glorious to know that, even while living on earth, I can dwell in your presence within my spirit.  I rejoice in your name all day long and exult in your righteousness, for you are my glory and strength (Psalm 89:16-17)!

(Photo credit:  http://ourdailyblossom.com.)

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Wise Man - Foolish Man House

You probably remember the story.

A foolish man built his house on sand; a wise man built his home on rock.  When a storm came, the house built on sand fell with a great crash.  But the wise man’s house stood firm (Matthew 7:24-27).

With this parable Jesus offers visual imagery for choosing man’s way to live or God’s way:

1) You can choose to build your life on getting ahead and having a good time, but in the end you will have nothing.

Or,

2) You can choose to build your life on faith in Jesus, and in the end you will receive great gain–a Rock of stability to depend on now, and perfect bliss in heaven for eternity.

Jesus is:

  • Reliable.  “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • Unchanging.  “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
  • Protective.  “In the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling..and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).

But I’m thinking the story about houses built on sand and rock could be applied to our thought lives, too.

For example, if we allow our minds to focus on the shifting sands of circumstance,  we sink into negativity, worry, and fear.

If we focus on a firm foundation of scriptural absolutes, a sense of tranquility and strength pervades our spirits.

What are those absolutes?  The Bible teaches many, including the following:

God loves us — so much that he sent his only Son to die in our place.  Jesus took the punishment for our sins that we deserve (John 3:16).  Now, I’ve heard that statement thousands of times.  Perhaps you have, too.  But we mustn’t allow familiarity to reduce this truth to banality. His love for us is everlasting.   Deep.   Caring.   Forgiving.   Full of grace.  Let’s bask in the wonder of his love!

God has a plan for each of our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11).  Notice God doesn’t promise a pleasurable plan.  God loves us too much to allow addiction to fun.  With his goodness comes discipline, so that we become mature. In the final analysis, immature people are not the most content anyway.  They are self-centered and tend to whine and complain.  I don’t want to be that kind of person, and I’ll bet you don’t either.  So let’s accept the absolute goodness of God’s plan.

God will equip and empower us for his plan (Isaiah 41:10).  He’s the one who formed mountains, engineered ecosystems, and filled infinite space with countless stars.  This same God lives within us and works through us, fostering resolve, strength, and perseverance.  Let’s turn to him moment by moment to avail ourselves of his power.

And as we affirm such truths, we are reinforcing our foundation upon the Rock. Stone upon stone.  Solid, firm, and strong.  When the storms come– economic setbacks, health problems, emotional hurts–we will not collapse into a heap.

With David we will be able to exult in God’s provision:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand…Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:1-2, 4b).

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What scriptural absolutes are part of your foundation?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

( art credit:  www.intheleafytreetopsthebirssing.blogspot.com)

 

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