Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2016

 

northern-cardinal-tree-branches 

 

Oh, look–a cardinal perched on that branch! Such a brilliant red. Against the foliage he reminds me of Christmas…What fun we had last year when Sophie* was here…Her school’s science fair is this week…I wonder how she’ll do? ‘Wish we could attend. Maybe Sophie could give her presentation on Skype…

 Now how did I get from cardinals to Skype? Well, you see the progression. That’s what often happens when the mind isn’t focused on a task: attention wanders from one thing to another.

Sometimes thoughts run in a positive direction, sometimes not.

Research has proved that positive thinking is actually good for us, providing:

  • A longer life span
  • Less depression
  • Less stress
  • Fewer colds
  • Better physical and mental health
  • Less risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • The ability to cope better during hardship**

But oh, how easy it is to fall into the negativity trap, and before we know it, we’re wallowing in despair.

King Solomon knew the danger we face. “Above all else,” he warned, “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

 

03a71f09e8f8ff655c35e0021ae09e0a

 

In other words, get smart about your thoughts and think about your thinking!

So, using Solomon’s imagery, let’s imagine ourselves as guards over our hearts. When a negative thought comes knocking, what should we do?

How about demolishing it with positive rebuttal from scripture? Here are a few verses that have helped me:

 

fd3ddff270b84696468cc48b3a806d08

 

  • Genesis 35:3 (NIV) – “He answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” Jacob’s affirmation is a reminder that God has answered me many times in the past. He’s provided his calming presence, all-wise guidance, and loving care my entire life. I can trust him for all my tomorrows.

 

67f94b429affb04f26e139d47d5d5a4d

 

  • John 13:7 (NIV) — “You do not realize what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Granted, applying this statement of Jesus to my circumstances a few years ago took the verse out of context. Even so, the morning I came across this scripture, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

 

romans-1136_4872_1600x1200

 

  • Romans 11:36 (NLT) – “Everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.” I have returned to this verse countless times when events don’t make sense.

In addition to scriptural rebuttal, we can turn our thoughts into conversation with God.   First, consider the outcome of a thought-thread such as this:

I don’t know how we’re going to get everything done by Friday. If So-and-So would only do her share, we’d be fine. Why did she have to be put on our team? It’s not fair that the three of us have to work extra hard to pick up her slack!

 Can you feel the frustration and worry building?

 But what if, as soon as I realize my thoughts are spiraling downward, I included God in the conversation:

I don’t know how we’re going to get everything done by Friday…But you do, God! How thankful I am that you’re on this team with me. Guide my way to Friday! And grant me wisdom in dealing with So-and-So. Show me how to help her become a contributing team member.

 That’s much more productive than limiting the participants to me, myself, and I.

The best news yet?  God Almighty is downright eager to come alongside and assist no matter what situation I face.  He’ll gladly come alongside you, too.

 

63c57c037e9a14ba1b54a6b6ae544c86

 

We don’t have to stand guard over our hearts alone.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Forgive me, Father, for allowing negativity to enter my mind and wreak havoc. When this happens again, help me to use scripture as rebuttal, and include you in my thought processes. Thank you for your help to turn my mind  from destructive to constructive thinking, so that I may enjoy fully the God-enhanced life you offer.

 

*Sophie is our seven-year old granddaughter who, sad-to-say, lives seven states away.

 

** from www.mayoclinic.org

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.fwallpapers.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.shereadstruth.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

Read Full Post »

(Fair as in true and good)

 

baptism_image

 

Yesterday, our church worship service ended with three baptisms. (Seven more took place at two other services.) What a heart-warming delight to celebrate the symbolism of new life with each participant!

One of those baptized was the pastor’s son.  As he rose up from the water, he smiled broadly and hugged his dad. Tears filled my eyes to witness a young boy committing himself to life with Jesus.

Just as physical life requires shelter, food, water, and clothing for survival, our new life in Jesus requires those same needs be met in our spirits:

 

Shelter

 

76285657c5177b81648227437dd17725

(“The one who lives in the shelter of the Most High,

who rests in the shadow of the Almighty,

will say to the LORD, “You are my refuge, my fortress,

and my God in whom I trust!”–Psalm 91:1-2 ISV)

 

But how do we access a shelter that is invisible? By centering our thoughts on God.

Even amidst the business of each day, we can pause now and then and imagine a personal refuge with him (on a quiet beach, under a sturdy tree in the forest, by a lake in view of mountains–those are a few possibilities).

First, we breathe in the peace of his presence. Yes, just the simple act of taking a deep breath while whispering such words as, “Prince of Peace, I welcome you,” can create a shift from tension to tranquility.

Then, like the psalmist, we reaffirm our trust in the Most High God, the Almighty–the One whose kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19b), yet he knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.

 

Food

 

d4e85afb1da4a6231fb2fb00a3c7ca35

 (“Man does not live on bread alone

but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

–Deuteronomy 8:3)

 

A pantry full of groceries is useless unless the food is consumed. Similarly, the great storehouse of inspiration and counsel in the Bible is of no use unless we read it, believe it, and live it out. The abundant, God-enhanced life of contentment and joy comes to those who taste of God’s character, promises, and wisdom—all found within the pages of scripture, ready to put into practice.

 

Water

 

waterfalls-rocks-landscape

 

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said,

streams of living water will flow from within him.”

By this he meant the Spirit.”

–John 7:38-39

 

With the refreshing of the Holy Spirit we become like trees planted by a stream (Psalm 1:3):

  • Strong—though not all at once, any more than a tree reaches maturity overnight. Growth occurs day by day, bit by bit, as we cooperate with the Spirit.
  • Green-leafed—radiant with health, reflecting the Lord’s glory, his goodness and character (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • Full of fruit—a natural by-product of the Spirit’s presence. “Every good tree bears good fruit,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:17). Examples include humility, purity, and selflessness.

 

Clothing

 

breaking-news-last-2

 

Familiar to many of us is the spiritual “armor” that Paul described (Ephesians 6:11-17). A worthy addition would be a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3). Like a favorite sweater worn at every opportunity, praise of our Father should accompany us everywhere.

 

_______________

 

This is certain:  God is more than able to provide for our every need—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

All possibilities for our lives exist within this one truth:

The almighty God rules from his throne in heaven, a throne he established before the beginning of time (Psalm 103:19a).

He’s got this–and everything else.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.cornerstonelife.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.projectinspired.com.)

 

Read Full Post »

 

Salmon-Salad_634

 

“This is the best salmon I’ve had in a long time,” commented my husband, Steve, after taking the first bite. He quickly forked another. “How’s your salad?”

“Delicious!” I enthused. “’Love this combination of turkey, feta, and cranberries!”

After a morning of shopping for the granddaughters (birthday gifts and summer clothes), we had stopped at a familiar café for a late lunch. The host graciously seated us in a back corner.

Patrons were leaving; our waiter chatted pleasantly with us, no longer responsible for multiple tables waiting to be served. Soft jazz played in the background, adding more charm to the experience.

Halfway through our meal, a waitress seated herself at the empty table across from us, a caddy of flatware and napkins in tow.  She proceeded to polish the former and wrap sets with the latter.

 

4ea6d15e075bcc99c1ba90cc1a875705

 

Clunk-clunk-ka-clunk, the knives, forks, and spoons clattered on the table after each piece received its shine. (Why couldn’t she at least spread out some of the cloth napkins from her caddy to absorb the racket?)

But the clamor wasn’t the worst of it. She had not disinfected the table. And two gentlemen had been sitting there when we first arrived. That tabletop received no more than a precursory wipe. I had to wonder about her hands, too—touching fork tines, spoon bowls, and knife blades as she polished.

If only the host had taken us to another corner. We’d never have witnessed this breach of sanitization-protocol, and our ignorance would have been bliss (unless we got sick, which we didn’t)!

Sometimes ignorance is a good thing.

I, for one, am glad the future is unknown to me, protecting me from worry. In my opinion, we’re better off not knowing everything that will happen next month or next year.

Our lack of knowledge—even about tomorrow–draws us to trust in God more intently. And growing trust allows us to delight in him more fully.

 

 

father-son-holding-hands

 

Think of a young child holding Dad’s hand while crossing a busy street. He revels in this one-on-one time with his hero, enjoying the security of his small hand in Dad’s big, strong one. He happily chatters on about what color sneakers to purchase when they reach the shoe store.

The boy doesn’t see Dad’s watchful eye on the traffic light, on the car that might turn into the lane where they’re walking, or on the texting teenager–heading straight toward them.

But Dad has the situation under control. All possible mishaps are avoided.

Ignorance is bliss for the little boy. He trusts his father to care for him and protect him, because Dad has proven himself over and over again.

And hasn’t our Heavenly Father repeatedly proved himself to us?

  • He has provided (Psalm 23:1).  All of our needs are met.
  • He has led (Psalm 23:3). God guides us in the way we should go.
  • He has been trustworthy (Psalm 9:10). He never forsakes his own.

 

encouraging-bible-verse-17

 

We can live in ignorant bliss of the future when we embrace child-like trust in God.

A child knows he is weak and helpless, lacking in knowledge and wisdom. He recognizes his dependence on adults.

In the spiritual realm, that translates to an attitude of humility, receptiveness, and neediness before God.

And the final result of ignorant bliss?  Peace.

 

751b7e9d6085438c5ca66116d6690f1b

(“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trusts in you.”  –Isaiah 26:3)

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.cookdiary.net; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.quotesgram.com; http://www.bibleverseimages.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

Read Full Post »

2205254

 

Picture great cloudbanks gathered to the west, blocking the late afternoon sun except for several small openings. Through those fissures, glowing beams of ethereal light stretch earthward.

Have the windows of heaven actually opened so God’s celestial Light could burst forth?

So it seems.

Other glimpses of heaven present themselves, too.

 

sky-tree

 

Think of a perfect morning with a cloudless azure canopy overhead, soft, silken breezes brushing against your skin, and birds in every tree praising God with their songs. Heavenly, you might sigh. And no one would argue otherwise.

Consider standing atop a mountain for a long-distance view of God’s majestic creation—ridge upon ridge, as far as the eye can see, covered with countless trees, and teeming with wildlife.

Consider cradling a newborn infant for the first time—peering into a pixie face with Daddy’s eyes and Mommy’s chin, coaxing tiny fingers to grasp one of your own.

Consider embracing that long absent loved one, finally returned home safely, and seeing happy tears in his eyes through tears of your own.

 

b1c151687729bf88fdc240740b0840ea

 

Such euphoric moments surely provide us glimpses of heaven, a preview of the splendor to come that God has so lovingly prepared.

Yet there are more hints, when:

  • We sense God’s presence in the midst of a prayer, the melody of a song or the message of a timely scripture. “Heaven and earth are filled with his glory” (Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 8:1). Surely one hint of heaven is God with us now—everywhere and at all times.
  • We experience bona-fide God-enhanced moments, and holy God-bumps rise up on our skin. Perhaps you receive a phone call from someone you were just thinking about and praying for, or a thoughtful gift turns up on your doorstep the same day you received disheartening news. These are more than coincidences; they’re God-incidents.
  • We enter a peaceful, uplifting sanctuary with other folks who genuinely care about God’s ways and each other. Just entering the door lifts our spirits and warms our hearts. (The Church ought to offer the most brilliant glimpse of heaven.)
  • We revel in the sheer pleasure of worship, focused on celebrating our gracious God—a hint of the euphoric adoration of our King that we’ll enjoy in heaven.
  • We sing with focused passion and the angels seem to join us. The classic, “Total Praise” by Carolyn Cymbala, inspires just that kind of singing. Do you know it?

https://youtu.be/xCsJyzm83W0

  • We witness a healing. Who has not been moved to joyful tears when the illness abates, the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear?

https://youtu.be/3m3r5xoYod8

  • We join with the Holy Spirit to introduce someone to Jesus, and the person accepts him into his/her life. There. Is. No. Greater. Joy.

These twelve circumstances, some repeated frequently throughout our earthly lives, prove* that “heaven-on-earth” experiences are not rare.

As Psalm 16:11 makes clear:

 

5894100d1bd97ab7c7b8895e1bd2dd22

 

In God’s presence (here and now) is fullness of joy. In his right hand, (held out to us daily) are pleasures forevermore.

But, these wondrous events we enjoy in the present are just hints of what God has prepared for us in the future, for those who love him (2 Corinthians 2:9).

Just think:

 

What is to come will be 

more breath-taking, 

more joyous, 

more miraculous, 

more exciting

YET!

 

*In my humble opinion!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.outdoor-photos.com; http://www.freebigpictures.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

 

Read Full Post »

7

Nancy and I taught together at the same school for seventeen years until she retired. (Yes, the same name, teaching the same grade.)

One morning she and I simultaneously climbed out of our vans, side-by-side in the parking lot, said good-bye to our kids, grabbed our multiple totes of stuff (teachers were the original bag ladies, you know), and headed to our classrooms.

As we traipsed up the slight rise to our building, we commiserated over the long-to-do list requiring completion before Spring Break. Our hands were on the doorknobs when Nancy said, “ ‘You know what we need?”

And in the split second before she answered her own question, I thought, Hallelujah! Nancy, with all her wisdom, common sense, and problem-solving skills has an idea to lighten our loads!

 “What we need,” she concluded, “is our lipstick!”

 

lipstick-quotes-7

 

I burst out in a very unladylike guffaw. You see, neither one of us had yet completed that step of our morning routine. And though life does go better lipstick (as most women would agree), it does fall short of erasing to-do-list chores.

Nonetheless, as I entered my classroom that morning, the tension in my spirit and shoulders was erased.  I felt renewed, powered up to face the challenges of the day. Nancy’s humorous comment had indeed lightened my load—at least attitudinally.

That old song we used to sing years ago at church was right:

  • Verse 1: “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10c, repeated four times).
  • Verse 2: “If you want joy you must laugh for it” (4 times).
  • Verse 3: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” (4 times).

Who could finish a song like that without a genuine case of the giggles?

Laughter works wonders to stir up happiness, contentment, and even improved health.

Remember King Solomon’s observation?

 

dc7baaf1e8c89cd88165ed062bc21dda

 

(“A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

–Proverbs 17:22)

 

And the medicine is all the more powerful when enjoyed in pleasant company.

Laughter shared is multiplied.

With improved health may very well come longer life.

 

He-who-laughs-lasts

 

(“He who laughs, lasts.”

–Mary Pettibone Poole)

 

And even if that’s not quite true, this bit of wisdom certainly is:

 

always-find-a-reason-to-laugh-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures

 

(“Laughter may not add years to your life,

but it will add life to your years.”

–Anonymous)

 

Besides laughter, another ingredient for that cheerful-heart medicine is: trust.

 

691f8e21811785da8bdf30fecfd46e5f

 

(“The one who trusts in the Lord will be happy.”

–Proverbs 16:20b, HCSB)

 

When our trust is strong, we can be light-hearted and content. After all, God is:

  • Completely trustworthy, never forsaking those who seek him (Psalm 9:10).
  • Gracious, surrounding us with his favor (Psalm 5:12).
  • Wise, making known to us the path of life (Psalm 16:11).
  • Attentive, sustaining us here on earth (Psalm 18:35), and
  • Loving, preparing our eternal home in heaven (John 14:2).

 

Childlike trust in God allows us to relax and enjoy childlike fun–even exuberant hilarity, belly laughs and irrepressible giggles.

 

job-8-21

 

(“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter

and your lips with shouts of joy.”

–Job 8:21)

 

So look for laughter. It’s everywhere!

 

Just this morning, our daughter-in-law, Hilja (a family practice and psychiatry resident), shared this story with me:

She was headed out the door to see a massage therapist for her aching neck.

“Where are you going?” asked her daughter, Elena.

Hilja explained.

“You need to see a doctor,” remarked Elena. After a pause, she added, “Wait a minute…

… I’M a doctor!” (Her toy physician’s kit has three-year old Elena convinced she’s as qualified as Mommy to advise and treat patients.)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Where has laughter and good cheer provided therapeutic medicine for you this week? Please share in the comments below. Laughter shared is multiplied!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.ice-inc.net; http://www.quotationof.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.quotio.com; http://www.thedailyquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.newlife.com.)

 

Read Full Post »

(Reblogged from April 4, 2013)

 

Gift wrap 2

 

It was late afternoon when the doorbell rang.

Through the sheer curtain at the window I could see D., from down the street. She and I had recently met and were becoming good friends.

“Is everything okay?” I asked while ushering D. inside.

“Oh, yes. It’s just…I have a present for you,” she replied. Sure enough, D. was carrying a wrapped box. We sat on the living room couch.

It was not Christmastime, and not my birthday. Why was she giving me a gift?

“Open it,” she encouraged.

“But, D.,” I hesitated.

“Go on!”

Upon removing the paper and taking the lid off the box, I beheld a lovely navy blue Bible with gilded pages.

Now you need to know, D.’s husband and mine were in seminary at the time. Neither of our households had much money to spare. So this gift seemed over-the-top extravagant to me. Of course I could not accept it.

“D., this is absolutely beautiful, but…”

She stopped me. “I chose to buy this for you; I want you to have it. Besides, if you won’t receive it, you’ll steal my blessing!”

D. was referring, of course, to Acts 20:35: It is more blessed to give than receive.

I had never considered that interpretation, but she was right. In order for a giver to be blessed, there does need to be a receiver.

“Besides,” D. continued with a grin. “I already wrote inside the front cover. I can’t take it back. So there!”

D.’s words of that long-ago afternoon still play in my mind when I find myself balking at unexpected or overly generous gifts. Even favors can make me uncomfortable. But if I don’t graciously receive, I steal the blessing from the giver.

And what’s at the bottom of my reluctance? I think it’s a sense of unworthiness and pride. Now there’s a strange set of opposites!

D.’s gift made me feel unworthy. I wasn’t deserving of her sacrificial gift.

Yet pride was part of my reaction, too. I didn’t need her gift. I already had a perfectly good Bible. Yes, it was an old and worn King James version, but it had served me well and could certainly continue to do so.

What I began to understand that day is: receiving well is in itself a form of generosity.

When I graciously express heartfelt gratitude for a gift, and share my appreciation for the time, effort, and thoughtfulness of the giver, I make a positive contribution of affirmation into her heart.

After D. left that day, I remember tearfully reading her inscription, and fingering the gilded pages. I felt incredibly honored, loved, and appreciated by D.’s gift.

Now, if it’s more blessed to give than receive, I wonder what D. felt as she walked home that afternoon? I pray she, too, felt honored, loved, and appreciated, even though my gratitude seemed paltry.

But surely the greater blessing came as God loved, honored, and appreciated D. for her gift.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *     *

Heavenly Father, I thank you for D.’s example, still strong after all these years. May I never miss an opportunity to be a blessing to others, whether I am the giver or the receiver.

What lessons have you learned from the givers and receivers in your life? Tell us your story!

(Photo credit:  www.episcopalbookstore.com.)

Read Full Post »

(Reblogged from January 14, 2013)

 

d3ace6829bf291149c0cf7f76d2d3d4f

 

Say the word “getaway” and I immediately envision Carriage Way, our favorite bed and breakfast in St. Augustine, Florida. (Visit their website at http://www.carriageway.com, and you’ll see why we love it.)

As you can see above, the house is a large, two-story Victorian, white, with pale blue trim. Wide verandas with wicker furniture entice visitors to sit and rest awhile. Each room is appointed with antique furniture, colorful quilts, ruffles and lace. Guests feel transported to a gentler, quieter time.

The name speaks to the inn’s location, along the horse-drawn carriage route. Each evening of our stay, we love to sit on the second-story veranda, chat, watch the people go by, and listen for the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves.

But a bigger draw of Carriage Way is the grace and thoughtfulness of its proprietors. From the friendly greeting upon arrival (by name), to the cookies, coffee, and soft drinks always available, they do their utmost to please their guests.

One morning during our first or second visit, the chief-cook at that time, L., fixed an unusual egg casserole. The unique ingredient? Green chilies, which gave the dish a definite Southwestern flavor. We raved about it.

A year or two later, when we visited again, L. told us, “Tomorrow morning I’ll fix that egg casserole you liked so much!”

Now I’m smart enough to know L. couldn’t possibly have remembered we’d relished that particular dish. I’m sure he would have liked to, but with so many guests, and such a volume of information, such details would be impossible to retain.

However, I can imagine L. entering guests’ preferences into his computer for future reference. L. and B. (the owner) were surely aware that people feel honored when they are remembered.

Now digest this. Someone else honors us with his remembrance. The omnipotent Ruler of the universe.

Think of it: Almighty God is mindful of us (Psalm 8:4).

He thinks about us constantly (Psalm 139:17-18). He never forgets about one of His children. Not even the number of hairs on each head (Matthew 12:30).

He knows us intimately, like a good shepherd knows each of his sheep (John 10:14-15).

And because He is mindful of us, He blesses us (Psalm 115:12a), providing for our needs, and guiding us in the way of wisdom (Proverbs 4:11).

There is only one thing he’s forgetful about. “I will forgive their wickedness,” he declared, “and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I am struck anew by your overwhelming love, Lord—a love that prompts you to remember us individually, know us intimately, and bless us magnanimously. Even more amazing, you choose to forget our disobedience and rebellion when we come to you with repentant hearts. Oh, that my life would bring honor to you. Guide me to that end, I pray.

 

(Photo credit:  www.pinterest.com.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Laurie Klein, Scribe

immerse in God, emerge refreshed

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Shelly Miller

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Faith Barista

Because some days you need a double-shot of faith.

Rebeca Jones

Building Standing Stones

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and reflections by Heidi Viars

Jennifer Dukes Lee

Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

Holley Gerth

Coffee for Your Heart

Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Healthy Spirituality

Nurturing Hearts Closer to God

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Jody Lee Collins

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions