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Archive for January, 2018


 

“Well, that’s about as good as I can make it,” Steve announced.

We stood at the end of the hall in the parsonage where we lived, surveying his handiwork: a fort.

You see, a hurricane was roiling toward all of us who lived in South Florida, the second storm in two weeks.

The first one, named Frances, had torn branches from our trees, ripped numerous shingles off the roof, mangled the screened enclosure and thrown it in the pool.

It could have been so much worse.

 

(Jeanne at Landfall.  We lived south of the eye–in that bright red area.)

 

Now we were facing Hurricane Jeanne. We had no idea if Frances had compromised the roof structure, and of course we were among thousands waiting for an inspection to assess such damage.

Because of the uncertainty of our situation, Steve built that fort. He dragged two dressers into the wide area at the end of the hall where doors opened to three bedrooms, two storage closets and a bath. Over the dressers he put two mattresses, and on top of that, two long, folding tables.

He tightly looped rope around all the doorknobs (to help hold them shut) except the door to our bedroom and bath. Then he laced the rope across the dresser-mattress-table structure like a web, and tied it all together snugly.

Now I know why little boys build forts, I thought, so when they grow up they can keep their families safe during a hurricane.

In spite of Steve’s efforts, however, we could not be sure his structure would withstand the pressure of the wind, especially if the roof gave way. And even a well-built fort could not keep out water should flooding become an issue.

But thankfully our fate was not in Steve’s hands, reliant on his fort-building skills (stellar though they be).  Our lives were–as they always are–in the sure hands of God.

 

 

 

No, those verses are not meant to imply God’s perfect protection for his people at all times. The historical record and present day tragedies bear out: Many wonderful men, women, and even children have suffered and died through no fault of their own.

However, those of us who have “made the Most High our dwelling,” can be assured of these truths:

  1. Any number of catastrophes could have overtaken us already, but God has safeguarded us.

For example, if it were not for his providential care I may already have died from:

  • Any number of illnesses as a child. Thanks to penicillin and antibiotics I survived.
  • Car accidents.  At least several times I’ve come that close to a horrific crash.
  • Falls from high places. (You can read about one such escapade here.)

No doubt you have your own stories to tell of potentially disastrous circumstances.

2. God always brings good out of distress—beginning with heightened awareness of his presence (Psalm 94:18-19).

 

 

Another positive outcome:  By the wind of his Spirit, he stirs up the ripple effect of his work in us to impact the lives others.

 

3.  In the context of eternity, our time on earth is no more than a blink.

One day we will be delivered out of this broken world into a place where no harm or disaster will ever occur, all troubles, frustrations, and pain will fade into insignificance.

 

Such truths gave me comfort that night as I hunkered down in our fort.  Wind and rain pounded against the house, sounding like hundreds of stomping feet on gymnasium risers.

Yet I slept.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Afterword: Obviously we survived that storm. The roof held firm and we experienced no flooding. Yes, the region was without power again for a number of days, and there was more debris to clean up. But God honored us with his loving protection–again.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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For one of his most stunning and delicate works of art, The Supreme Craftsman begins with the most innocuous of materials: dust and water.

His factory/workshop for these masterpieces is the upper atmosphere of Planet Earth where he sets into motion a miracle of formation and intricate design.

God endowed water vapor with the ability to cling, even to the tiniest of dust particles floating high into the atmosphere. And when the temperature drops below freezing, those wet, clinging molecules turn into ice crystals. Very quickly they form a hexagon shape, no more than .008 or .009 of an inch in diameter, and a snowflake is born.

Vapor continues to bond to the hexagons in different ways as temperature, wind velocity, and density of moisture vary—even within the same cloud.

Some snowflakes maintain a hexagon shape.

 

(Photo by Wilson Bentley)

 

Others develop arms, and from the arms grow lacy patterns or feathery extensions.

 

 

As the snowflake tumbles downward from the clouds, vapor continues to cling and ice crystals continue to form—up to 1,000 microscopic crystals, each impacted by differing conditions. One outcome is certain: the greater the humidity, the more complex the pattern.

 

 Another photo by Wilson Bentley, 1890)

 

Is it true what they say, that no two snowflakes are alike? Most meteorologists say yes, because the dust particles themselves come from countless different sources–from sand, soil, and volcanic ash to decayed plant and animal material.

Add to that the wide-ranging variations of weather conditions mentioned above, and it becomes apparent: an infinite combination of factors contributes to the infinite number of patterns.

 

 

 

 

But God isn’t finished yet.

The awe factor is increased as tiny snowflakes begin to gather:

  • in graceful drifts,

 

 

 

  • on every branch of the trees,

 

 

  • and in sparkling swaths across the landscape.

 

 

And a few lessons present themselves as well:

 

  1. If God cares about the formation of snowflakes, he surely cares about the formation of his children.

A practically minded person would take one look inside God’s snowflake-factory and shake his head. “Why bother with all these designs?” he might ask. “Such a waste when they’re just going to turn to slush and eventually evaporate!”

But our God is a true Artist at heart, paying attention to details and creating beauty where it isn’t even necessary.

How much more must he desire to create the beauty of his holiness within our spirits?

 

  1. By itself, one snowflake is a fragile entity. But think what an avalanche or glacier can do.

 

 

By himself, one person can accomplish little. But think what happens when human effort is multiplied.

We weren’t created for isolation; God intends for us to live in community with other believers. Together we can achieve great good. Groups of Christians have generously brought aid to those in need, built schools, hospitals, and orphanages, even accomplished the abolition of slavery—to name a few examples.

There is strength in numbers, whether it’s snowflakes or God’s people.

 

  1. The miracle of snow occurs in silence; the miraculous power of God works silently, too.

 

 

Hours before we catch snowflakes on our gloves, the Supreme Craftsman sets the conditions and engineers the circumstances for their creation. Silently the snow comes, and finally we hold in our hands a breath-taking miracle of dust and ice crystals.

Similarly, long before we take note of an answered prayer or unbidden blessing, The Supreme Craftsman sets the conditions and engineers the circumstances for their fulfillment.

Silently he comes. And suddenly we hold in our hands a breath-taking miracle of his power and love.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Maker of Miracles, just as your universe is full of wonder, so are our lives. We can’t begin to recount all the awesome works you have performed for our benefit. All we can do is sing for joy at the work of your hands!

 

(Psalm 40:5, 66:5, 92:4)

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr (James P. Mann); http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com (Natalia Kollegova); http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com (AMagill); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.nws.noaa.gov; http://www.paxpixel.freegreatpcitures.com; http://www.flickr.com & Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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A certain king known for his wealth and brutality, took a stroll one evening on the rooftop of his imposing palace. From his lofty vantage point, he could view the large and glorious city he’d created–with the back-breaking labor of thousands of slaves.

Numerous, handsome buildings made of brick and stone displayed the best architectural design of the time. He had spared no expense in their construction. Many said it was the most beautiful city on earth.

But the king had also been careful to reserve space for parks and gardens. Most awe-inspiring of all were the “hanging gardens” of Semiramis. Planted on the rooftops, they kept cool the rooms below and offered stunning beauty as well. Soon they had earned the prestigious recognition as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

 

(One artist’s idea of what the hanging gardens may have looked like.)

 

The king threw his arms outward. “Look at this great and glorious city I have built,” he cried, “a fitting residence for a king of such mighty power as I!”

Someone heard the king’s boast–someone who detests the proud of heart (Proverbs 16:5), and who wields the power to bring disgrace to the prideful (Proverbs 11:2).

No sooner had King Nebuchadnezzar bragged about his glorious accomplishments, than he became insane and lost his throne for a period of seven years (Daniel 4:28-37).

 

(King Nebuchadnezzar, reduced to groveling among the beasts)

 

Clearly, we’d do well to avoid such boastful pride as Nebuchadnezzar demonstrated. But the repugnant trait manifests itself in other ways too. The prideful person:

  • Puts self first, others second.
  • Craves recognition, admiration, and attention.
  • Takes credit for what others have done.
  • Becomes defensive when differing views are presented.
  • Rarely acknowledges sins, flaws, or mistakes.
  • Blames others for failures.
  • Resists advice, new information, or techniques.

Not a pretty package.

And according to Harry Emerson Fosdick: “A person wrapped up in himself makes a small package” as well (emphasis added).

 

(Harry Emerson Fosdick. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from AZQuotes.com Web site: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/99920)

 

I have to admit, at sometime or other over my lifetime, I’ve exhibited every one of these unattractive symptoms of pride.

But what about confidence? Is that different? And what would it look like, to be confident without pride?

Paul exemplifies confidence in Philippians 4:13:

 

(“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”)

 

The difference between pride and confidence includes the source of each. Pride grows out of arrogance and conceit; confidence grows out of trust in God.

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him”

–Jeremiah 17:7

 

 

And because the source is different, the resulting traits are different.

For the Christian, confidence is the quiet knowing that God is in control and all will be well in the end. Therefore he/she can set aside self-aggrandizement, express convictions, even confront others when necessary with grace and poise.

In addition, confidence fosters:

  • Consideration of others before self (Philippians 2:3).
  • Collaboration and cooperation with others (Psalm 133:1).
  • Disinterest in the spotlight (Philippians 1:15-18).
  • Recognition and praise to God, the Creator of all accomplishments (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
  • The desire for self-improvement with the help of God (Philippians 1:6).
  • The desire for wisdom from God and godly people (Proverbs 19:20).

 

 

Now that’s a beautiful and grand package.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for your willingness to help me eradicate prideful thoughts the moment they manifest themselves. Thank you for showing me the way to live with confident trust in you —no longer over-protective of ego or overly concerned about self-interests—but surrendered to you and dependent on you, the Engineer of what’s best and the Source of all competency.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay. com.)

 

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Hope.

Such a small word for such a big, important concept.

Multi-syllable synonyms seem to carry more clout:  expectation, assurance, confidence, and conviction offer a few.  (Thank you, Dr. Roget.)

Stir them together and we can create a definition for faith-filled hope:  the constant, confident, assured expectation that God will see us through every circumstance until we’re standing before him in heaven.  Those are words with heft that we can hang onto through dark and stormy nights.

 

 

You see, hope is much more than wishful thinking.

But sometimes it hides behind the overwhelming issues we face:  health concerns, financial problems, troubled relationships, difficult circumstances, foreboding futures.

 

 

How can we live with confident assurance that all will be well when uncertainty seems to rule the day, the week, the year?

As always, scripture offers us insight:

  • Understand that hope doesn’t come from a hidden reservoir within ourselves.  According to 1 Peter 1:3, our hope comes from God, provided for us out of his loving mercy.  It’s a living hope, breathing energy and strength into our souls.
  • Remember:  we can move forward with positive expectation because He is our all-powerful, grace-filled God—loving, kind, and wise, too.  He’s not just watching from afar; he’s an involved God, tending over us like an attentive Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11a).

 

 

  • Rest assured that our faithful God will see us through to a satisfying conclusion—either through events that unfold over time, or perhaps through an instantaneous miracle.  It may be the satisfying conclusion will not come until we cross the threshold into eternity (1 Peter 5:10).  But then, in the glorious ecstasy of that moment, our earthly trials will no longer matter (Philippians 1:21-23).
  • God’s plan is designed for our good (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Hope involves waiting (Micah 7:7)—expectantly and patiently.

Sometime during second grade I noticed that being a teacher looked like fun.  And soon my favorite pastime became playing school with whomever I could cajole into being students.  When necessary, dolls were pressed into service.

That desire to become a teacher stayed with me all through high school and college.  Finally, after fourteen years, I was the one sitting at my own teacher’s desk, awaiting the arrival of my first students.  My hope, my confident expectation that I would one day be a teacher, had at long last become reality.  The import of the moment was not lost on me.  I had to fight back the tears.

 

 

Such euphoric joy does not happen often without waiting.  We appreciate more what we have to wait for.  And frequently, hard work is also involved.

God allows us to be part of the process, teaching us important lessons about patience and perseverance along the way.

Here’s what I need to remember:

Long-term waiting and steady hard work toward a dream makes the fulfillment all the sweeter when it finally comes.

For now, we can enjoy hopeful anticipation of a new reality that is coming, perhaps in this new year 2018—good health, financial security, improved relationships, or fulfilled dreams.  We can take comfort from the knowledge that our God, who is unlimited by the constraints of time, already resides there.  And…

 

Through the dark and stormy night

Faith beholds a feeble light

Up the blackness streaking;

Knowing God’s own time is best,

In patient hope I rest

For the full day-breaking!

– John Greenleaf Whittier

 

 

Let’s step out into each new day breaking with trust and obedience, because God is preparing us for that new reality.

And may these words ring in our ears:

 

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him.”

–Lamentations 3:25

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What hope have you been clinging to?  Are there scriptures which contribute to your confidence and expectation?  What experiences of the past give you assurance for your hopes of the future?  Please share your insights below in the comments section!

 

(Revised and reblogged from January 31, 2013.  I do apologize for posting a reblog again.  Steve and I have been sick, catching a nasty bug on New Year’s Eve.  First I succumbed, and then he did.  A new post will be forthcoming next week!)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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