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Archive for March, 2018

Saturday afternoon provided the perfect circumstances for a cozy sit by the fire.   The calendar was clear for the day and we could burrow into the quiet. Snow showers added to the tranquility as they gently outlined backyard trees in white.

 

 

The serenity of our sitting area is enhanced by the beloved hand-me-down decor: the clock, oil lamp and child-size rocker from my grandmother, lanterns that belonged to Steve’s Dad and grandfather, books of our parents’ youth, and a painting that once hung in the home of Steve’s parents.

 

 

Altogether, the golden firelight, familiar furnishings, and cozy comfort engender peace and contentment.

But as delightful as these moments are, this kind of tranquility is fleeting. At any moment the phone might ring and the caller share distressing news. Then we’ll hardly notice our snug surroundings as concerns and questions begin to demand our attention.

When that phone call comes, circumstantial peace will not be enough. But that’s the only kind this world can offer. What we really need at such times is a stillness of spirit that originates outside this world from the Master of Peace.

My peace I give you,” Jesus told his disciples. “I do not give you as the world gives.”

 

 

Remember when he spoke those words? The night before he died.  He well knew what was to come (1). The next day would be a maelstrom of suffering, climaxed by tortuous pain on a cross.

How could he speak of peace on the eve of such horror?

Because his heart was always directed Godward, resulting in radiant peace. Jesus faced rejection, false accusations, hateful treatment (from religious leaders no less), and even attempted stoning. And yet he remained unruffled.

“Christ’s life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived…But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there” (2).

 

 

And this is the peace he offers us—a peace that includes tranquility, security, and prosperity of spirit in spite of circumstances. It is “a rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty yet strong enough to withstand all onslaughts” (3).

How do we avail ourselves of this treasure?

By reviewing the attributes and promises of our Prince of Peace–all day long.

“Great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace,” said Charles Spurgeon.

 

 

Perhaps we could word our great thoughts of Christ as a prayer:

You, Lord Jesus, are our Good Shepherd, always leading in the way we should go. You tenderly watch over us, meeting every need and protecting us from evil—including wild, fearful thoughts and emotions (4).  

You are full of love for us. Out of your kindness and compassion you see us through every dark valley of life. Though we may not always be aware, you are ever-present, ready to offer strength and support (5).

 

 

You have said, “Everything is possible for those who believe” (6). And we know that’s true because we’ve seen your miracles. You’ve healed incurable diseases; you’ve protected and provided in hopeless situations. You’ve enabled others to transition to heaven with impossible grace and joy.

For these reasons and many others, we place ourselves in your attentive, all-wise, all-powerful care.

You are our Mighty One, our Rock, our Haven of Peace.

 

 

______________________________

 

P.S. I started rough drafting this post last Saturday afternoon, while sitting by that fire. Uncertainty had already moved into our hearts after Steve’s blood work last week turned up questionable results. The doctor immediately called for a cat scan that took place on Friday. Monday he shared the results with us: liver cancer.

Steve is now on an obstacle-ridden road toward a liver transplant, and the future holds much greater uncertainty than we faced last week.

Do you suppose it’s just coincidence that I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about peace for the last six days?

I don’t think so either.

 

Notes:

(1) Luke 22:15-16

(2) Henry Drummond

(3) Sarah Young

(4) John 10:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; John 10:11

(5) Ephesians 5:1-2; Luke 6:35; Matthew 28:20

(6) Mark 9:23

 

Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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In spite of research, technology, and highly trained engineers, there are still appliances and products that leave us wondering, Who designed this thing?

For example:

 

 

Some of those motion sensor faucets do NOT work. They only detect motion in ¼” square of air space.  In addition, you must position your hands at a particular angle and you must move them at a precise rate of speed to get the water flowing.

Good luck.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

_________________________

 

 

Take a look down inside one of the drawers of our refrigerator. See that little niche deep in the left corner? All kinds of tiny bits find their way into those crevices; to get the bits out you need a Q-tip.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

Someone who’s never cleaned a refrigerator, I’ll bet.

_________________________

 

 

‘Ever make the mistake of washing your fresh fruit and vegetables before removing the stickers? If so, you’ve wasted precious moments (as I have) scraping off the stubborn adhesive. In these days of Gorilla Glue and Post-Its, you’d think they could create a glue that doesn’t turn gooey the second it gets wet.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

No doubt the top concern of “those sticker people” is what’s cheap–not what’s helpful to the consumer.

_________________________

 

 

And I just love hand lotion pumps.  They (purposely?) make the pump stem short so we’re left with two weeks worth of lotion in the bottom that won’t pump.

WHO DESIGNED THIS THING?!

I suppose they hope we’ll throw away the remaining amount to avoid the hassle of draining the container. Then we’ll purchase more often, which means more money for them. Clever.

_________________________

 

 

I know one Designer who doesn’t make poor decisions, careless mistakes, or selfish choices.  You know him too.

He’s the one who created caterpillars that can morph into butterflies by repurposing parts of the chrysalis into fragile wings.  Yet some species are capable of migrating thousands of miles  (1).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

 

 

The Supreme Designer gave hens the ability to manufacture a hard shell around a flexible membrane containing a slippery yolk and liquid albumen. In addition to that feat, thousands of invisible pores perforate the shell so the baby chick can breathe.

Within a few days after the egg is laid, blood vessels develop from the growing chick. Two attach to the membrane under the shell; two attach to the yolk. By the fifth day, the chick is obtaining oxygen through the membrane vessels and nourishment through the yolk vessels.

Peel a hard-boiled egg and you’ll notice an empty space at the wider end. That pocket of air provides about six hours of oxygen while the chick pecks his way to life in the big world (2).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

 

 

In 2007, scientists attached satellite transmitters to sixteen birds known for their long-distant flights: bar-tailed godwits. One little specimen called E7 flew from New Zealand to Alaska in three months—a trip of 9, 340 miles. That included a five-week stopover near the North Korean/Chinese border.

After nearly four months in Alaska, E7 began his journey back to New Zealand. He flew 7,145 miles in nine days, nonstop, averaging 34.8 mph. He didn’t eat, drink, or sleep that whole time. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, he flew alone and ended up where he started (3).

WHO BUT GOD COULD DESIGN SUCH A CREATURE?

_________________________

And those are just three examples, O God, of your incomparable work. I shake my head in wonder at the millions of plants, animals, and even one-celled creatures you have meticulously designed to function perfectly in perpetuity.

From nothingness you have created the universe and everything in it. Thank you for gifting us with eyes to see the beauty, minds to contemplate the wonder, and hearts to savor the miracles.  May we be ever attentive, appreciative, and worshipful in the presence of your creative genius.

 

 

What element in creation leaves you astounded?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

(1) https://lifehopeandtruth.com/god/is-there-a-god/intelligent-design/evidence-for-intelligent-design/

(2) http://biblicaldiscipleship.org/content/marvelousgod%E2%80%99s-creation-8-childen-egg

(3) http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2629

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.simple.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net.

 

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No doubt many moviegoers looked forward to last Friday when the film A Wrinkle in Time premiered.

Perhaps like me they had read the book of the same title and relished every page of the Newbery Award winner (1963), written by Madeleine L’Engle. Fans of the novel surely hoped the film would offer the same intriguing juxtaposition of science and fantasy, as well as the thought-provoking allegory of the divine versus demonic.

Some Wrinkle-in-Time fans may not know that L’Engle was a Christian, and wrote the book as a way to express her reflections about God.

“If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it,” L’Engle journaled. “This is my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death” (1).

 

 

L’Engle grew up with a church background, but in her 30s wrestled with such essential questions as: Does God exist? Why are we here? Do we exist after death? Her strong faith in God developed over time, her granddaughter has explained, a slow “acceptance of what she had always known to be true” (2).

As L’Engle’s faith grew, she established the daily habits of Bible reading and prayer. Her writings began to reflect her devotion to God and deep love of scripture.  A Wrinkle in Time is no exception. Several characters frequently quote from the Bible.

L’Engle discovered: “Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys” (3).

L’Engle’s faith did indeed carry her through several tragedies. Her father died when she was eighteen, the result of lung damage during World War I.   Close friends died, survived by their young daughter, Maria. L’Engle and her husband Hugh adopted the child, only to struggle through Maria’s emotional turmoil as time passed. Then, after forty years of marriage, her beloved Hugh died of cancer.

L’Engle eventually wrote: “We trust as [Medieval mystic] Lady Julian of Norwich trusted, knowing that despite all the pain and horror of the world, ultimately God’s loving purpose will be fulfilled and ‘all things shall be well…and all manner of things shall be well.’ And this all-wellness…does not come to us because we are clever or virtuous but comes as a gift of grace” (4).

 

(www.quotefancy.com)

 

She saw Christianity as a paradox. On the one hand is the infinite, unfathomable God beyond comprehension, but who was at the same time a finite human being–Jesus–who died for us on a cross.

“To believe the universe was created by a purposeful being is one thing,” she wrote. “To believe this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason” (5).

 

 

L’Engle often wove Christian themes into her stories. Sadly, filmmakers chose to downplay the faith elements of A Wrinkle in Time, and focus on the fantasy and special effects. What’s left is a confusing storyline and muddled message. Many critics admit to disappointment and confusion (6).

In an interview the film’s screenwriter explained the decision for removing all traces of Christian reference:

“I think there are a lot of elements of what [L’Engle] wrote that we have progressed on as a society, and we can move on to the other elements” (7).

Oh? We can move on from the element of truth?

Like Madeleine L’Engle, we must wrestle with the essential matters of truth and faith; we must be certain of the reasons and evidence for our beliefs, because…

 

 

Notes:

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/new/acts.of.faith/wp/2018/03/08/the-deep-faith-of-a-wrinkle-in-time

(2) Same source as above.

(3) From Walking on Water (Crosswicks, 2001), by Madeleine L’Engle

(4) Same source as above.

(5) From Penguins and Calves (Shaw Books, 2003), by Madeleine L’Engle

(6) http://www.businessinsider.com/wrinkle-in-time-movie-changes-book-religion-christianity-ending-2018-3

(7) https://uproxx.com/movies/jennifer-lee-wrinkle-in-time-frozen-2/2/

 

Additional sources:

  1. www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/march-web-only/hollywood-spiritual-themes-wrinkle-time-madeleine-lengle.html
  2. http://exhumator.com/00-139-00_esoteric-religious-spiritual-engle-madeleine.html
  3. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/madeleine-lengle-an-epic-in-time/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com.

 

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“Your life can overflow with radical blessings!” Jesus told the crowd.

Maybe he didn’t use those words (even in Aramaic), but that was the reason he shared eight glimpses of what happens when we embrace God’s way of thinking and living.  Those eight declarations of blessedness are called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

Declaration #1 reads as follows:

 

 

The subsequent seven statements follow the same pattern.

But read through the rest of scripture and you’ll find other beatitudes as well, especially in Proverbs. And now that I’ve accumulated some life experience over a number of decades, I see more clearly than ever:  we do receive radical blessings when we embrace God’s ways.

For example:

Rhonda was struggling financially, trying to work part-time as much as she could while putting herself through college. She came over for dinner one night and I felt compelled to give her a bunch of coupons from my file, for the things she purchased regularly.

 

 

Now you have to understand, that coupon collection was extensive, because I gathered from numerous sources, traded with others, and even sent away product labels to receive high-value coupons.

It hurt to hand over a fistful of my precious stash. But I knew it was the right thing to do.

The next week, I received–from two different women–two bags full of coupon inserts from Sunday newspapers.

And I learned:

 

 

Or, written Beatitude-style:

Blessed are those who give freely,

for they will gain even more.*

 

___________________________________

 

 

Everyone loved “Aunt Toss.” She never went anywhere without a smile on her lips, a twinkle in her eye, and a chuckle at the ready. Frequently Aunt Toss would pop into Steve’s office to share a joke he might be able to use in a sermon. She saw humor in everything, was quick with the witty quip, and could pun with the best of them.

Yet during the years we knew her, she suffered terribly from shingles. And she missed her husband dearly. No one would have blamed Aunt Toss if her cheerfulness slipped a little. But she didn’t let that happen.

Instead, Aunt Toss enjoyed a continual feast of happy thoughts, pleasurable moments, and the reflected cheer from others, as she caused everyone around her to smile and laugh with her.

And I learned:

 

 

Written Beatitude-style:

 

Blessed are the cheerful,

for they have a continual feast of delight.

 

(The lovely lady in the photograph is not Aunt Toss, but she exuded the same joy.)

 

___________________________________

 

One of my husband’s spiritual gifts is generosity (Romans 12:8). Even during those early years of our marriage when the budget was tight, he would graciously help others in need.

So how did we make ends meet? We lived quite frugally, owned one car, wore some very nice hand-me-down clothing from family and friends, shopped with coupons of course, and watched for bargains.

One store in particular became a regular stop on my errands—a hit-or-miss place that carried an ever-changing array of goods.

One day a jumble of Keds lay piled on a table near their door. Heather, our middle child, was just about ready for a new pair. But she had narrow feet; her shoes had to be purchased at places like Stride Rite. The chance I’d find her size on that table was slim to none. (‘Hope you like puns!)

But a good rummage through the mound turned up a pair of size 7 slim after all. The best part? The price. You are not going to believe this:

Fifty cents.

 

 

Now granted, this occurred in the late 1970s. Things were cheaper back then, but not THAT cheap! At Stride Rite, we were paying $14.00 for a pair of Keds.

During those years of financial challenge, God provided bargain after bargain and gift after gift, due at least in part to Steve’s God-honoring generosity. And as only our Heavenly Father can do, he made sure our needs were always met—and then some.

 

 

For out beatitude statement, we can add the result of kindness, from verse 31:

Blessed is he who is kind to the needy,

for he honors God.

 

___________________________________

 

Over and over God has proved:   His ways are always best.  In fact, they are perfect.

 

 

How has he proved his wise ways in your life?  Please share your story in the comment section below!

 

* Of course, financial gain is not the only way God blesses those who give freely. Gains can be received through enhanced relationships, an uplifted spirit, added wisdom, greater contentment—and that’s just for starters. Our God is highly creative; he brings gain into our lives in countless ways.

 

Art & photo credits — Sermon on the Mount: wikimedia.com, bird on branch: www,canva.com,  coupons: http://www.pexels.com, hands: http://www.flickr.com, smiling woman: http://www.pexels.com, heart: http://www.pexels.com,  tennis shoes: ww.pixabay.com, Proverbs 14:21: http://www.heartlight.org, 2 Samuel 22:31: http://www.dailyverses.net.

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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