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Archive for August, 2017

 

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift which is why we call it the present.”

–Bill Keane

(creator of the comic, Family Circus)

 

During my years as a fourth grade teacher, I used this Bill Keane quote to review with the kids the basic three tenses of the English language. The humor added a bit of fun; the truth of Keane’s statement added a bit of wisdom.

Even nine- and ten-year olds can benefit from the realization that:

Yesterday is past. We’re better off if we choose not to hold on to the hurts and disappointments of days gone by.

Tomorrow is a mystery; ‘best not to dwell on worrisome possibilities that most likely won’t happen.

Today is a gift from the ultimate Gift-Giver, God himself, and there is much to savor and appreciate.

 

 

The problem is, I forget. Those moments when I’ve marveled, laughed, or sighed in contentment are lost by day’s end in the blur of busy-ness.

So over the last few months I’ve been recording small blessings worthy of celebration—at least one per day, sometimes more.

For example:

  • While I was exercising, a bustling little wren nodded and bobbed from her log-perch outside the window. She cheered me on.

 

 

  • A glowing pink sunrise in the east greeted a crescent pearl moon to the west. Beauty shouting praise into the silence of dawn.

 

 

  • Our four-year old granddaughter, Elena, found an instant friend at the playground. The two girls gleefully ran back and forth several times across a field, holding hands. They perfectly illustrated Celeste Palermo’s observation, “Children are high-energy guides from Heavenly Tours, Inc.” (1).

 

 

  • A woodpecker extravaganza occurred in the backyard when three different species congregated at the same time—a flicker, a red-bellied, and a hairy.

 

(Hard to tell this guy is a red-bellied woodpecker.)

 

  • I spent a quiet hour reading on the deck one evening, reveling in heavenly weather and a bowl of sublime strawberries. All senses were happily engaged—mind and spirit, too.

 

 

You’ll notice there’s nothing particularly exciting on this list. No exotic locations, no momentous adventures.

Just affirmations that right now is good and quiet moments afford their own distinctive treasures.

It’s been great fun collecting these small snippets of surprise, exhilaration, and solace each day. I’m learning to carve the extraordinary out of ordinary and find the holy among the humdrum.

The Gift-Giver himself resides among his gifts. And as I savor selected moments of my days, I taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for this moment, right here, right now, that includes happy trees outside my window, clapping their hands in praise to you. I thank you for the soft cloak of quiet around me, and the nest of memories surrounding my desk, woven from things old, bestowed, and beloved. “The earth is full of your loving kindness, O God”—even in my little office.

(Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 33:5b)

 

What moment from today will you savor?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Note 

  1. Celeste Palermo, The Coffee Mom’s Devotional: A Rich Blend of 30 Brief and Inspiring Devotions, (Revell, 2009), 154.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pexels.co; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

He does not withhold the good

From those who live with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11-12 HCSB

 

I praise you, O God, that you are the Sun of my life (Psalm 84:11a), sustaining me in body, mind, and spirit, lighting my way with infallible dependability.

Just as the magnetic force of the sun keeps the planets in orbit around it, you keep me within the orbit of your love and care.

Like the sun you are my ever-present, never-changing source of power, enabling me to grow into your radiant likeness, day by day.

Even when menacing clouds of despair or discouragement roll in, your splendorous Light breaks through with encouragement, hope, and strength.

 

 

I praise you, O Lord, for being a shield around me (v. 11a)—a living shield that is always present, always on guard, and always ready to act.

Through the fiercest storms of life, you are a refuge, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).

You have protected me from what I thought I wanted, life choices that would have led me down treacherous paths.

And with the truth of your Word, you’ve deflected the poisoned arrows of hurtful thoughts and harmful lies.

 

 

I praise you, O Father, for the favor and honor you bestow upon me (84:11b).

Evidence abounds every day of your loving benevolence, as you not only meet my needs but graciously supply surprise blessings far beyond necessity.

Throughout my life I’ve seen evidence of your gracious provision: financial obligations met when funds ran low, impossibly long to-do lists shortened by cancellations and changes of plans, difficult circumstances resolved.

Even though I may walk through dark valleys of illness, trial, or tragedy, I know you will pour grace into my soul, enabling me to endure.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you do not withhold even one good thing from those who live with integrity (v. 11c).

It’s so easy to become focused on material things, even though we know that a full closet, a garage of gadgets, and a large bank account offer fleeting satisfaction at best.

Instead, your priority, Father, is providing the good things of eternal value.  You never withhold your quieting peace or soul-drenching joy, the delight of your calming presence, your perpetual strength to persevere, or the exhilarating hope of eternal life.

These good things and more are always available to those who trust in you.

 

 

Heavenly Father, when trouble invades my life remind me that:

  • My vision of what’s good is severely limited (Romans 11:33-36).
  • Your ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • You accomplish monumental purpose through the meanest of circumstance (Romans 8:28).
  • The perseverance to navigate a hard road will one day be lavishly rewarded (James 1:12).

 

 

I praise you, Almighty God, for each good thing you bring my way, each blessing mentioned here and countless more unmentioned.

Now may complete trust and enthusiastic obedience be my gifts to you.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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It was a grand summer evening to be at the park. Not too hot, not too crowded. Mom, Dad, my grandparents, baby brother and I were just finishing a picnic supper. Through the trees a nearby vacant swing beckoned.

Come ride with me! We’ll fly up to the sky!

I had just learned how to pump and was anxious to try my new powers on the ten-story park swings. (OK, they weren’t that tall. But compared to most playground swings, these were colossal.)

No sooner were the last bites of hot dog and potato salad consumed, than Mom and Dad said it was time to pack up; we needed to leave.

“But I want to go on the swings,” I protested.

“We’ve got something better planned,” Mom replied.

What could be better than flying up to the sky?

Reluctantly I climbed into the back seat of the car. Dad stowed the picnic paraphernalia in the trunk, and drove us through city streets to the countryside where fields of corn stretched to the horizon.

 

 

And then, miracle of miracles, Dad turned into the parking lot of…

…Kiddie Land!

Some clever farmer had carved out a corner of his field and installed a number of carnival rides: a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, kid-sized motorized tractors, small boats that rotated in a large tub, and more.

 

(Another visit the following year,

when my brother, John, was old enough to join in the fun.)

 

We had passed this Kiddie Land at least several times on our way to visit my great-aunt and her large family. And though I would beg to stop, we never had time.

“Not today, Honey,” they’d say. “We have to get to Aunt Hester’s.

That summer evening, however, turned out to be the occasion of my first visit, and in a cloud of euphoria I flew up to the sky on the Ferris wheel instead of an old playground swing.

 

 

My plans for the evening didn’t begin to compare to what Mom, Dad, and my grandparents had in store for me.

Someone else also designs delightful plans that far exceed my child-sized ideas. My Heavenly Father.

One experience on top of another begins to construct a good foundation of things already seen, so I can trust him for what is not seen. (A number of previous posts have highlighted some foundational experiences. See: “After the Fact,” “Progress,” and “The Greater Plan.”)

The psalmist, Asaph, knew about this foundation for faith and built one of his own. “I will meditate on all your works,” he declared, “and consider all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:12). He affirmed there is no god as great, who performs miracles and displays his power among us all (vs. 13-14).

 

 

Ah, but what about the potential for trouble or pain in the not seen of the future? Even then, God will produce good effect (Romans 8:28). And a bedrock foundation of trust will provide the necessary fortitude to endure, even thrive.

With Job we’ll be able to say, “Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction” (36:15).

I have no idea what God is planning for tomorrow, next week, or next year. But just as my parents set a reliable example of parental care and blessing, so has my Heavenly Father–only infinitely more so. Every good gift comes from him (James 1:17), and they are plentiful.

I have seen enough evidence to know I can trust his all-knowing, all-wise, all-sufficient ways. Especially because all he does is motivated by perfect love.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *

 

Thank you, Lord of Joy, for every good and perfect gift you bestow, many of which exceed our expectations. We delight to see your creativity and marvel at your generosity. Day after day you pour forth your blessings, building a strong foundation of experiential evidence. And each blessing demonstrates your compassion, grace, patience and love.

“Your righteousness reaches up to the skies, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?”

 (Psalm 103:2-5, 8; 71:19)

 

 

What great things has God performed in your life that have built your foundation of faith?  Please share an experience or two in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  www.nps.gov; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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“His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning:

Great is thy faithfulness.”

–Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV

 

Thomas read the familiar words from his worn Bible.

Oh Father, he prayed. You have been generously compassionate to me all fifty-seven years of my life– through trial and disappointment, joys and sorrows.

Thomas allowed his thoughts to take him back in time, first to his boyhood home, a log cabin on a small farm in Franklin, Kentucky, where he and his older brother helped their father in the fields and attended a small country school. Neither boy received an education beyond the elementary level.

 

(Typical log cabin school,

this one in the Hensley Settlement of Kentucky)

 

Yet, in 1882 when Thomas was only sixteen, the school board hired him as the new teacher.

Imagine me—just a kid myself—a school teacher, thought Thomas.

He smiled, remembering his favorite part of the school day: reading stories and poems to his students, enriching all of their lives, his included. Thomas puttered at writing poetry himself—an avocation he would enjoy the rest of his life.

Six years later, Thomas’ proficiency with language led to the position of associate editor of his hometown newspaper.

 

(Thomas Obadiah Chisholm)

 

I enjoyed that work and being a contributing member of the community. But you and I both know, Lord, 1893 was when I really began living.

That was the year, at age twenty-seven, Thomas accepted Jesus into his life, through the ministry of Henry Clay Morrison, the founder of Asbury College and Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

 

(Henry Clay Morrison)

 

Again, Thomas smiled, remembering the day when Dr. Morrison came to him with a surprising proposition: become the editor for his publication, The Pentecostal Herald. Thomas’ mind reeled at the idea of leaving his country community and living in the noise and crowds of Louisville, but in his heart Thomas felt led by God to accept Morrison’s offer.

I thought for sure I would spend the rest of my life in Louisville, but you, Lord, had other plans.

 

(Louisville, KY, ca 1900)

 

As Thomas worked at The Pentecostal Herald, he felt drawn to the pastorate. In 1903, at age thirty-seven, he was appointed to a small church in Scottsville, Kentucky. Thomas not only transitioned into parish life but married life as well, taking Catherine Vandervere as his wife.

 

 

I remember thinking, Well, God, you’ve finally planted me in the work you’ve prepared me to do.

But one year later ill-health demanded Thomas give up the ministry.

Catherine and I were heartbroken, weren’t we, Lord. No sooner had we settled into the Scottsville ministry, than it was over. But you, O God, provided that little farm in Winona Lake, Indiana, and employment with an insurance agency. And just as the scripture says here in Lamentations, your compassions failed not. The Christian community of Winona Lake warmly welcomed us, and you blessed us with the births of our girls, Ruth and Dorothy.

 

 

Then, twelve years later in 1916, God once again led the family to move—this time to New Jersey, where another position with an insurance agency awaited. Very quickly seven more years passed, and now Thomas was fifty-seven years old.

From Kentucky to Indiana to New Jersey you have cared for us, Lord.

Thank you for your great faithfulness, O God, my Father. Never have you forsaken or failed us. Day after day by your hand, everything we have needed you have provided.

And Thomas began to write:

 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God, my Father!

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

 

Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness,

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

 

________________________________

 

In his later years, Thomas sometimes described himself as an old shoe. But look what God did:

Shortly after Thomas wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (in 1923), he sent a collection of his poems to his good friend, William Runyan, who worked for a Christian music publisher. William was also associated with Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. This poem in particular caught his attention and William prayerfully sought to compose a worthy melody.

 

(William H. Runyan)

 

The resulting hymn became a favorite of Dr. Houghton, president of Moody Bible Institute. When he asked a young soloist, George Beverly Shea, to sing a selection of hymns on the Moody radio station. George included Dr. Houghton’s favorite, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Some years later, the great evangelist, Billy Graham, invited George to join his ministry. In city after city, Billy preached and George Beverly Shea sang, frequently choosing Thomas Chisholm’s hymn.

It quickly grew in popularity. To this day, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a favorite hymn of many.  (Hear Chris Rice sing it by clicking here.)

 

 

All told, Thomas wrote over 1200 poems over his lifetime, 800 of which were published—poems written by a man with only an elementary education. Among them were more beloved hymns such as “I Want to Be Like Jesus,” “O to Be like Thee!” and “Living for Jesus.”

 

(Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, 1866-1960)

 

His story proves: God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)—even with an old shoe.

 

(Sources: www.sharefaith.com; www.umcdiscipleship.org; www.lifeway.com; www.sermonwriter.com; www.worshipmatters.com; www.zianet.com.)

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.hymnary.org; http://www.hymtime.com; http://www.oldlouisville.com; http://www.digging-history.com; http://www.hippostcard.com; http://www.cyberhymnal.org; Nancy Ruegg; hymntime.com.)

 

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“Poetry is the robe, the royal apparel,

in which truth asserts its divine origin.”

— Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887, clergyman)

 

Nowhere do we find divine truth dressed in more glorious, royal apparel than in the psalms of the Bible.   Heart and soul skip a beat as we encounter such regal lines as:

 

 

“Extol him who rides on the clouds—

his name is the Lord.”

–Psalm 68:4

____________________

 

 

“You are clothed with splendor and majesty.

He wraps himself in light as with a garment.”

–Psalm 104:1-2

____________________

 

 

“He spreads the snow like wool

And scatters the frost like ashes.

He hurls down his hail like pebbles.

Who can withstand his icy blast?

He sends his word and melts them;

He stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.”

Psalm 147:16-18

 

We marvel at the artistry with which the psalmists paint glorious images with their words. Then we remember: the Artist was God himself as he inspired these men to transcend mere informative prose and capture the essence of his grandeur and power with creative insight.

 

 

Just as toddlers learn to talk by copying those around them, we can learn to praise, worship, and pray by copying such psalms. Their worthy vocabulary, creative phrases, and poetic sentences offer expression for the mere shadows of thought in our hearts.

Surely that’s one reason God gave us the psalms in the first place: as a school for prayer.*

And in his wisdom he provided models of prayer for the full range of response to him in every situation we might face.

 

 

  • In need of comfort? Picture the imagery of Psalm 23.
  • Feeling like God is far away and uninvolved? Read Psalm 71.
  • Craving moments of intimacy with your Heavenly Father? Meditate on Psalm 103.

 

 

  • Feeling insignificant? Praise your way through Psalm 139.
  • Longing for reassurance that God is in control? Turn to Psalm 146.
  • At a loss of words to celebrate God? Enjoy Psalm 8.

 

 

In addition, the psalms provide worthy models as we pray for others.

Just yesterday, while researching the idea of praying through the psalms, I came across an interesting suggestion from Donald S. Whitney at www.crosswalk.com.**

He recommends we skim read five psalms per day and by month’s end, the entire book will have been reviewed. Pause, contemplate, and pray back to God those verses that catch your eye and touch your heart. (That process is expedited if verses which are personally meaningful have already been underlined.)

Then we can turn our attention toward verses appropriate for others. This morning my prayer list included two sets of friends, both with particular challenges in their lives. I skimmed through Psalms 1-5 to see if any verses stood out for them.

Sure enough, Psalm 5:11-12 fit perfectly.

 

 

I personalized it a bit:

“Lord God, I thank you for the examples of S. & E., G. & A., as they take refuge in you. They DO love your name and sing your praises in spite of the difficulties they face. I thank you for your protection over them.

“They are righteous in your sight because of Jesus, and they also strive consistently to obey you. Therefore, I know you will fulfill your promise to bless them. May they sense your favor surrounding them like a shield—today and always.”

It felt good to pray like that, because God’s Word is flawless (Proverbs 30:5a), and wields great power (Hebrews 4:12).

 

 

Later I messaged the two couples, letting them know that on this day, these verses were prayed over them. Sending these messages of encouragement also felt good.

I’m already looking forward to my morning prayer time when I’ll skim Psalms 6-10. Which verses will perfectly suit those on tomorrow’s prayer cards? It’s going to be fun to find out.

This School of the Psalms promises to be a very satisfying experience. Perhaps you’d like to join me?

 

_________________________

 

*A term created by Eugene Peterson in his book, Under the Unpredictable Plant (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992), p. 100.

**”How to Pray through the Psalms,” www.crosswalk.com, November 9, 2015.

Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net (2); http://www.hanscom.af.mil; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.mybible.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

 

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