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Archive for June, 2014

(As most of you know, Steve has retired from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. We have recently moved to the Midwest, close to our sons and their families. Now if our daughter and her family would move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 11-25-13.)

I don’t know what’s better:

That first sip of coffee in the morning, or the first moment on the pillow at night.

The anticipation of an exciting event, or the lingering memories after.

Ice cream in the summertime, or thick, hot soup in winter.

Gazing at a wide vista of mountains and trees, or studying a tiny flower up close.

 

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Snuggled up by the fire, or walking through crisp, autumn leaves.

Dark chocolate or white popcorn!

A new book with a tantalizing title, or an old, prized volume, underlined and dog-eared.

 

OpenBook

 

The raucous noise of a festive party, or the delicious quiet afterward.

The uplift of a clear, cloudless day, or the coziness of a cloud canopy.

Looking forward to wonders yet to be discovered, or looking back on wonders already known.

 

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Oh, yes, Lord. “You have made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Thank you, Father, for continually blessing your people—not just corporately but individually. You even bestow custom-blessings, specifically designed for the pleasure of one! And thank You that, as I draw near to you with a grateful heart, your presence fills me with awe and joy.

What blessings are you hard-pressed to choose between? Share your thoughts in the Comments below!

(Photo credits:  www.flickr.com,  www.levenger.com, http://www.123rf.com.)

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(As most of you know, Steve has retired from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. We have moved to the Midwest, close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 7-29-13.)

 

Why is it we’re never satisfied?

As kids, we could hardly wait to grow up—to stay up late, drive a car, and never have to go to school.

As adults, we sometimes wish we were kids again—to play all day, take a nap, and never have to go to work.

As kids, time seemed to move slowly—especially when looking forward to a special event. Remember how L-O-O-O-N-G it took for Christmas to come?

As adults, time seems to move extremely fast—especially as Christmas approaches and the cards haven’t been sent, the gifts haven’t all been purchased yet, and the tree still sits in a bucket of water on the back porch.

We go shopping and come home with new place mats, some pillows for the family room, and a new quilt for the bed. For a while we’re delighted over the difference those items make to the decor.

In no time, though, our focus shifts from those lovely things to other “needs” we identify around the house.

Reminds me of what the oil tycoon, John D. Rockefeller (1837-1939) said. He was asked, “How much is enough?” And he answered, “A little bit more.”

This from a man with an estimated fortune of $1.4 billion. In fact, Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest persons of all history. Not even Bill Gates or Sam Walton can come close.

Before we dismiss Mr. Rockefeller as selfish and greedy, though, it’s important to know he was generous with his fortune. His financial records indicate that $550 million were donated to schools, health organizations, scientific research, and the arts.

But his comment (perhaps spoken with a twinkle of humor in his eye) speaks to the attitude of many. We believe that with just a little more, we’d be content.

That’s a lie.

So what is the truth of the matter? What is the real reason we’re never satisfied?

  • The answer might be that contentment is the result of our focus. Our attitude is impacted by what occupies our thoughts. Therefore, we would be wise to:

1. Stay focused on who we are right now, and where we are right now. Every age and stage has its advantages and disadvantages. Which column is worth our attention?

2. Stay focused on what God is providing, what we have currently. “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow” (Helen Keller).

3. Stay focused on God’s attributes and blessings. “The fear of the Lord leads to life: then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23).

To fear the Lord means to have reverence and awe for him. Such an attitude leads to many benefits in life, including:

  • peace of mind, because our powerful and loving God is in control,
  • joy of heart, because of the pleasure in his bountiful blessings,
  • contentment of spirit, because we’ve already received so much.

That’s how I want to live—totally satisfied, in complete serenity, as a worshipful tribute to my gracious God.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the gifts of serenity and satisfaction, when I focus on you. May my days be filled with your praise!

 

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(As most of you know, Steve has retired from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. We are in the process of moving to the Midwest, close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 9-30-13.)

Our granddaughter, Elena, is now seven months old, and already her personality is evident.

For example, when she awakens in the morning, Elena plays contentedly in her crib for ten minutes or so. She chews on her pacifier from every angle, rolls around, practices her pike position, and plays with a snuggle toy or the zipper on her sleep sack. Elena may also struggle to crawl or even pull herself up into a standing position, in spite of the confines of the sleep sack. Eventually she lets the household know that crib-playtime is over and she’d like to be rescued.

The rescuer receives rich reward–a big 1000-watt smile, a few squeals of pleasure, and panting excitement at what the new day might hold.

And though she enjoys songs and stories, Johnny Jump-Up and toys, her favorite activity has to be dancing with her daddy. Eric, our son, has created a playlist specifically for this activity, many tunes from Disney musicals.

 

daddy-daughter-dance

I recently had the pleasure of watching Eric and Elena perform this ritual. Eric tucks her firmly in one arm, while holding her hand out with the other. True ballroom style. And though they may begin with a gentle waltz, Eric soon takes off with gentle jogging and polka steps. He adds his voice to Angela Lansbury’s and David Tomslinson’s.

But the other morning, my pleasure in watching them dance turned to uproarious laughter, as Eric mimicked a few of the chimney sweeps’ moves from Mary Poppins. Knees rising high with each step, and dips in between, he marched across the dining room. Then with broad, high kicks he pranced in the other direction. Elena bobbed in his arms, beaming and squealing.

And I thought, O, Lord, this is such supreme pleasure–to watch a daddy and his daughter do a silly dance, reveling in the music, the movement, and each other. Do you, Father, take joy in watching us, your children, delighting in all the pleasures you’ve given? Surely so. Otherwise, why would you have provided spectacular colors, intricate patterns, and incredible variety in creation? Why would serendipity blessings suddenly drop into our laps? Yes, we need to keep pleasure in its proper place, and not let the pursuit of it consume us. But I glory in those delights you have ordained. And I worship you for your gracious love, motivating you to make us laugh and smile. Thank you, God.

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(As most of you know, Steve is retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Very shortly we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 5-16-13.)
220px-E-W-Wilcox

“With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see”

(Ella Wheeler Wilcox, author and poet, 1850-1919).

Observation #1:

We never know when a small deed may plant a seed of faith or encouragement. We never know when that seed will reap a bountiful harvest in the life of someone else.

Live attentively to the fact that every deed is a seed. The people around us are watching and listening. Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of a church elder who once led a worship service for two. It happened over 150 years ago in England. A blizzard on Saturday night made it impossible for villagers to get to the church—including the pastor.

 

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The elder almost sent home the two individuals who had come, an older man and a young boy. But something (Someone?) compelled him to speak. Later he confessed his words came out rather jumbled and brusque.

But. The elder planted a seed that immediately took root. The young boy accepted Jesus as his Savior that day. His name? Charles Spurgeon—preacher and author extraordinaire, whom God used mightily. People are still impacted by his writings to this day. (For an example of Dr. Spurgeon’s God-given genius, see the post, “Not Length But Strength,” from May 9, 1913).

 

Observation #2:

Our responsibility is the planting of “deed seeds”; the harvest is up to God.

The same principle that works in the physical realm works in the spiritual realm: A farmer may plant, fertilize, and water, but the germination of each seed is a miracle only God can bring about. Don’t become tightly focused on results.

The elder who led Charles to the Lord that snowy, wintry day, had no idea the boy would grow up to have such a profound effect on the world. The gentleman may not have lived long enough to see the results of his deed that morning. But we know, and we marvel.

 

Observation #3:

The true harvest is not measurable in physical terms, and it’s hidden from view in the spiritual realm.

Only now and then does God give us a glimpse of what our small deeds are accomplishing. Perhaps God planned it that way so pride and self-gratification do not taint the glory of the harvest.

Imagine the joy that elder continues to experience every time a saint comes through the gates of heaven–fourth and fifth generation Christians, who have been influenced by Charles Spurgeon, whose ancestors accepted Jesus because of him. In addition, thousands  have been influenced and encouraged by the preacher’s writings.

And it all began with that faithful elder.

You see, the positive influence of a man or woman of God never dies.

 

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Such a possibility should translate into enthusiastic motivation for planting seeds wherever we go.

 

(Art and photo credits:  www.wikimedia.org and http://www.wikipedia.org.)

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(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 11-7-13.)

 

tears

 

Before my friend, Elizabeth, said a word, I knew something was wrong. The slump of her shoulders, the wrinkled brow, the tears welling up in her eyes–they spoke loud and clear.

“You know how Michael and I would like to have a little brother or sister for Ashley,” my friend said, dabbing her eyes with Kleenex. “Well, it’s become more than just a desire for me. I so desperately want another child.” Her voice became tight. “The waiting and uncertainty are becoming unbearable.”

We stood together, in the emptying sanctuary after church, arms entwined. And I prayed for Elizabeth and Michael.

Psalm 113:9, a verse which had ministered to me years before, came to mind. I included the promise in my prayer: “God, you’ve promised ‘to settle the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.’ We are claiming that promise today for Michael and Elizabeth. Even now we look forward to the day when they are holding a precious, new baby in their arms.”

Note the verse says children, not child.

The prayer came out of my mouth with certainty and brazen expectation, not in keeping with my cautious personality at all. I have to admit, the thought crossed my mind, What if God intends for Elizabeth and Michael to have just one child? You’ve gone way out on a limb with that prayer!

But I voiced no disclaimers. I let the prayer stand on its foundation of conviction–conviction that didn’t come from my spirit as much as from the Holy Spirit.

For the weeks that followed, I continued to pray that God would bless this couple with another child.

Weeks later, Elizabeth approached me once again. Before she said a word, I knew what she was going to say. Her outspread arms, wide grin, and sparkling eyes spoke loud and clear.

“I’m pregnant!” she cried.

We hugged each other tight and noisily exclaimed our jubilation.

Would I have been as excited had I not been praying for this family? Delighted, yes. But jump-up-and-down ecstatic? Probably not.

My joy was greatly expanded because I had invested myself in the outcome—with the effort of prayer.

Yes, there are many reasons to pray, including these benefits:

Our wills are aligned to God’s will (Psalm 37:4).
Strength of character is developed through the discipline of perseverance (Luke 11:5-8).
We have the opportunity to bring glory to God (John 14:13).
Prayer is a means of fighting against evil (Ephesians 6:10-18, especially verse 18).

But the wonder of prayer, for me, is the privilege God gives us to be part of the process, as he engineers circumstances to accomplish his will.

Every time God moves in situations for which we’ve prayed, he is giving us a precious gift: the gift of participation with him–in a miracle.

Maybe two.

Michael and Elizabeth had twin girls!

 

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*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Heavenly Father, thank you for the splendid privilege of participating with you in the healing, protection, provision, and guidance with which you bless others. May I never get tired of bringing my requests to you, knowing that the joyful conclusion will be worth every moment spent in prayer!

(Photo credit:  www.saveourschoolsnz.files.wordpress.com; http://www.etsy.com.)

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(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 11-29-12.)

 

Breathe in this truth, long and deep:

God delights in you.

“That’s impossible,” you may say. “I can be downright self-centered, lazy, and prideful. Some days I can’t seem to do anything right. How could God possibly be pleased with me?” (I am quite familiar with this train of thought myself!)

Listen carefully.

 

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(“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).”

Fear, in this case, does not refer to terror. Fear refers to these attitudes:

  • reverence
  • trust
  • respect
  • awe
  • appreciation

The second half of the verse above makes clear that God rejoices in those who turn to him with faith.

If you fear God, as described here, and wholeheartedly hope in him, then the following statements are true of you:

He smiles upon you as you express appreciation for his blessings.

His eyes glisten with love as you pray for guidance and strength.

He revels in the time you spend immersed in his Word.

His heart fills with joy as you exult in creation.

He beams with pleasure when you help a stranger.

He rejoices when your heart is filled with peace and joy.

Yes, there are going to be moments when we stumble back into selfishness and pride. We’re not perfect—at least I’m not. But hallelujah! God does not leave it up to us to work through the perfecting-process alone.

Consider this good news the writer of Hebrews shared:

“May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Wow. God not only makes clear what pleases him, he works in our hearts and minds to mold us into those kind of people.

Meanwhile, I think he takes great pleasure in progress, just like human parents do.

 

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You know how it is. Mom and Dad practically shiver with excitement when their tyke takes his first step and speaks his first word.

But did they expect their little one to learn these skills on his own? Hardly. With loving attention they held the little guy upright so he could practice taking steps. They repeated words countless times until their toddler could form them on his own.

Now relate this situation to our Heavenly Father. Isn’t it probable he experiences the same joy as we rely upon him to take faltering steps toward spiritual maturity?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Lord, for being a gracious God who actually delights in his children. Thank you for loving us in spite of our failings and for smiling upon our efforts, meager as they may be. Our hearts are filled with awe and gratitude to realize you, the ultimate, all-powerful King of the universe, not only care about each step of progress we make, you are right beside us, enabling. You are magnificent—I can never praise you enough!

 

(Photo credits:  www.crosscards.com; http://www.gettyimages.com.)

 

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(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 11-12-12.)

 

david_goliath_bible_hero_poster

 

If I asked a church group to name their favorite Bible story, David and Goliath would surely get several votes. The classic plot of underdog-beats-bully appeals to many of us. In addition, David provides a powerful example of faith in the face of fear.

This familiar story was the reading assignment during my Bible study one morning almost thirty years ago. But a new lesson awaited me that day, and has impacted my life ever since.

Following the reading of 1 Samuel 17, the study guide asked: “How did David’s past experiences of the Lord’s deliverance give him confidence to face the present challenge?” The author was referring to the bears and lions David had defeated while caring for his father’s sheep (vs. 34-36). Such experiences had prepared David to face Goliath with faith and courage.

Then came the clincher question: “What practical lessons does this teach us about the value of remembering, and the importance of proving God’s presence and power in ordinary daily living?”

I could easily recall several outstanding experiences when God’s presence and power were definitely at work in my life. But I knew there were many more which had slipped out the back door of my memory and were gone forever.

So I decided to begin writing down instances of God’s presence and power. Then when Goliath-sized problems arose in my life, I could review those entries and build up my faith.

The first incident occurred that very afternoon. I locked myself out of the house as Jeremy, our youngest, and I left to pick up his older brother and sister from school. My pastor-husband, Steve, was attending a meeting forty-five minutes away and wouldn’t be home until late that night. To make matters worse, dinner was simmering on the stove. (Remember, this happened nearly thirty years ago, before cell phones.)

I did have the car keys so we drove to school and started to pray for God to help us. Upon returning, I tried every door and window. Nothing budged. We went to a neighbor’s house. I started to call several leaders from our church, hoping someone would have a parsonage key.

During the second or third call, who should pull up in the driveway but Steve! His meeting had adjourned early. With a few spare minutes on his way to another appointment, Steve thought he’d stop by to see the kids. Our car in the neighbor’s driveway indicated where we were.

Now some folks would call that mere coincidence. Not I. That was a God-incidence, and it became the first entry in my Blessings Journal. I concluded that record with this prayer: “Thank You, Lord, for this little miracle, for proving your power and presence to me the very day I determined to look for it. You are a great and marvelous God, yet you cared for one forgetful mother with one small problem.”

(That Blessings Journal now contains over 900 entries of remarkable gifts and events.)

 

What indication of God’s presence and power have you experienced recently?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

(art credit: http://www.livingfaithtogether.wordpress.com)

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