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Archive for June, 2018

(A new parable)

 

In the high-ceilinged reception hall of the palatial residence of Elohim (1) stands an uncertain woman, Encie (2). Her new friend Jesus has just ushered her in, but what might happen next, Encie has no idea.

A tall, winged being of shimmering light glides into the hall through a massive door on the left. “Welcome, Encie! Welcome to your first day in the eternal kingdom of God! I am Avodah (3), honored assistant to Elohim. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to kingdom living.  But first, please direct your attention upward.”

With a graceful sweep of his arm, the angel (for what else could he be?) draws attention to a great choir of angels hovering high above.  They begin to sing a joyful, undulant melody accompanied by fast-rolling harmonies. Such a beautiful weaving of sound Encie has never heard, but all too soon the music crescendos in a heart-stopping finish.

 

 

And then silence.

The angel whispers, “That was for you, Encie.”

She turns, wide-eyed, to stare at Avodah.  “Me?  I don’t understand.”

“We can’t help getting excited every time another person invites Jesus into his or her life!” he explains.  “And now, Encie, we have gifts for you!”

He grandly gestures once more, this time toward a long line of angels entering the hall from a door on the left. Each bears a different gift.

The first angel approaches with a thick packet balanced on both hands.

“These are your adoption papers, Encie. They indicate you are now a full heir to your Heavenly Father’s estate, which is the whole universe. As an adoptee, you’ll enjoy other privileges also. For example, your Friend and Brother, Jesus, will be with you wherever you go, to provide strength and comfort.”

 

 

With trembling hands, Encie takes the adoption papers from the angel, barely able to whisper “thank you.” Can it be?  She is now a child of the King of all!

Angel #1 quietly slips away toward another doorway to the right and a second angel moves forward with a thick book.

“Ah!” says Avodah. “This gift will become more precious to you than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. It is Elohim’s Supreme Instruction Manual, filled with wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.”

 

 

Angel #2 places the manual on top of the adoption papers in Encie’s arms and exits in the same manner as Angel #1.

Angel #3 approaches carrying an identification badge on a lavaliere.

“Allow me!” cries Avodah. Taking the badge, he drapes it over Encie’s head and positions it gently around her neck. “You now have direct access into the throne room of Elohim Himself. You may ask Him anything; you may tell Him anything.”

 

 

“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” Encie blurts. “Nothing I have to say could possibly be important enough for Him.”

Avodah lays a lightbeam finger on God’s Word in her arms. “You’ll read here that He actually wants you to bring everything to Him. You can drop off all your worries and concerns in His throne room. In their place He’ll offer you another precious gift: His peace of mind that no human can explain. You will never again have to experience stress or sleepless nights—unless you choose to.”

Avodah pauses for a moment, allowing Encie to absorb the glorious possibility of exchanging life’s pressures for Elohim’s perfect peace.

 

 

And then Angel #4 glides forward. In his cupped hands he holds what appears to be a sparkler, but there is no stem. The ball of shooting sparks hovers over his hands, apparently causing no harm or hurt.

“Oh, Encie.” says Avodah, with reverence in his voice. “This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is because He’s already been working in your life that you are even here today. But now He will bring wisdom, understanding, and strong counsel to your mind. He will enable you to serve Elohim in far greater ways than you ever could on your own. And that’s just the beginning! You’ll learn more about the Spirit in God’s Word there.” And Avodah lightly taps Encie’s new instruction manual.

 

 

Suddenly the sparkler-orb arises out of the angel’s hands and moves toward Encie. She experiences no fear, and there is no pain as the light passes through her being into her soul. Upon entrance, a warm, euphoric joy spreads through Encie until she is filled with the presence of Spirit Light.

Yet there is more.

Avodah asks, “Encie, do you see all these other angels waiting in line? They, too, carry gifts for you including:

 

 

  • A padlock for your heart, because God’s love is locked into you in unending commitment
  • A can of sunshine yellow joy-paint, to splash on all life’s circumstances
  • A spool of never-ending blessings
  • An anchor of hope to hold you firm and secure
  • A level for smoothing the paths of life
  • And a packet of fruit seeds the Holy Spirit will help you grow into mature, delicious character traits over time

 

 

“Oh—and don’t worry. We’ll make sure all of these gifts make it home with you.”

“I-I don’t know what to say, “ Encie stammers and lowers her head. “The words ‘thank you’ seem…worthless.”

Avodah lifts her chin with his glowing hand and speaks with tenderness in his voice.

“The best way to show your gratitude, Encie, would be to demonstrate heartfelt reverence for all Elohim has done for you. Take Him at his Word, follow His all-wise ways, and trust Him. He loves you so very much, Encie.”

 

 

Encie nods.

“Why don’t you go into the throne room right now?” asks Avodah, indicating a golden door in the center of the back wall. Tell Elohim your thoughts. Remember, He’s not listening for impressive words; it’ll be your heart He hears.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Lord Almighty! Everything within me cries, “Thank you!” I try to sing my gratitude; I kneel in worship in an effort to express my gratitude. Thank you for Your love and faithfulness expressed in countless ways. You are the One and only, great and glorious Elohim, my Heavenly Father! 

(Psalm 138:1-5)

 

Notes:

(1) Elohim: infinite, all-powerful God

(2) Encie: New Christian (N.C.)

(3) Avodah: a Hebrew word meaning work, worship, and service

 

Scriptural basis for elements of this parable: Luke 15:10, Romans 8:14-17, 29; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 11:28; Psalm 119:72; Romans 5:1-2; Philippians 4:6-7; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 3:16, 20; Acts 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 4:4-8, 11-13; Psalm 40:5; Hebrews 6:19; Proverbs 4:26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 147:11; Hebrews 11:6; Titus 2:11-14.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com by Tyler Neyens; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Which would you say is the most common human weakness?

A. Living unaware?

B. Greed?

C. Pride?

D. Selfishness?

According to pastor and author, Lou Guntzelman, the answer is A.*

Even twenty years ago when Guntzelman wrote his book, he saw many people living superficially, busily, and distractedly –moving too fast and focusing too much on insignificant matters.

 

 

Maybe those descriptors don’t apply to you. But I have been guilty on all counts.

And those of us who tend to fly through our days are at great risk of missing life.

We don’t see the unique qualities of the people around us.

 

 

We don’t hear the laughter of our children.

 

 

We don’t even think to take in deep gulps of rain-scented air, just for the pleasure of breathing.

 

 

We don’t taste and see God’s goodness in the world.

 

(Blackwater Falls, WV)

 

We don’t sense His presence.

 

 

But!

 

When we learn to engage the mind and especially the spirit in the moment at hand, we discover the splendor of God’s glory tucked into surprising places–right in front of us.

 

 

“The moment one gives close attention to anything,

even a blade of grass,

it becomes a mysterious, awesome,

indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

–Henry Miller

 

The obvious question is: how do we reprogram ourselves to live more aware?

 

Perhaps the first step is to condition our minds through quiet reflection.

 

In a place of solitude, we avail ourselves of his presence and redirect our attention from the day’s cares to God’s truth.

 

 

Sometimes that might include:

  • Studying and contemplating scripture, open to a change of heart or a change of direction.
  • Naming God’s attributes and celebrating how he’s demonstrated those attributes in our lives.
  • Keeping a gratitude journal, to help us tune in to the positive.  (It’s a transformative habit!)
  • Reading books by thought-provoking Christian authors, then mentally processing their tenets, and seeking ways of application to life when appropriate.

 

 

The state of our minds affects our perception of everything.

 

Second, we condition our focus.

 

We determine to:

 

(Backyard beauties at our house,

on display the end of April)

 

  • Appreciate more fully the natural wonders around us—even in the backyard, on the way to work, while running errands.
  • Honor each person we meet with eye contact, smiles, and a kind word.
  • Sift out the immaterial and apply ourselves to the important.
  • Refuse pointless worry and find priceless treasure in scriptural reassurance and God’s inimitable peace.
  • Pursue wholeness—the state of being perfectly well in body, soul (mind, will, and emotions) and spirit.  That happens as we submit more and more to God’s perfect ways (Psalm 119:1-2).

 

 

And what will be the result?

Each day there will be the anticipation of discovery and delight, joyful praise and expectant hope. We’ll find ourselves speaking to God more and more often, and hearing his whispers in our hearts. We’ll experience greater satisfaction in life as we train our focus on him and savor his endless blessings.

 

 

Bottom line: We will live on the threshold of heaven.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

Oh, this is where I want to live, Father—on the precipice of your glory. Though responsibilities must be taken care of, I can still take note and inwardly digest all the beauty, blessings, discoveries, and lessons that you bring to my attention. Help me to live aware!

 

*Lou Guntzelman, So Heart and Mind Can Fill, St. Mary’s Press, 1998.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; wwwpxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.quotefancy.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com.

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at       https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Samuel always wanted to be an artist. He even studied in England with the famous American artist-become-Londoner, Benjamin West. And though painting was his first love, Samuel soon won a prestigious award for a sculpture: “The Dying Hercules (1813).”

God’s plan seemed clear for the devout Christian. Samuel was created to be an artist.

Upon returning to the United States, Samuel turned his attention to portrait painting, traveling from town to town to offer his talent. And although his income was often meager, Samuel was very happy in the work.

 

(One of Samuel’s paintings, “Gallery of the Louvre,” 1831-1833)

 

A proud moment came in 1825 when he was invited to paint none other than James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States. And while in Washington, Samuel was also commissioned to paint the French General, Marquis de Lafayette.

 

(Samuel’s portrait of Lafayette, 1825)

 

Surely God was smiling his favor upon the artist’s success.

And then disaster struck.

Samuel received word that his wife, Lucretia, had died after the birth of their third child, back home in Connecticut. He rushed to New Haven, but by the time he arrived, Lucretia was already buried.

His anguish was accompanied by frustration. If only there were a faster way to communicate across great distances, he thought.

And he remembered another time of similar frustration.

In 1811 when Samuel had first arrived in London, a second war between Britain and the United States was imminent. English ships were attacking American ships, suspected of carrying goods to Britain’s enemy, France. England did seek reconciliation with America, but before the letter arrived in Washington, America declared war on Britain.

Slow communication caused hardship and pain at the end of that war also. After the peace treaty was signed, another major battle was fought because the generals didn’t know the war was over.

 

 

In 1832, Samuel was en route from Europe to America, after further study of painting, and happened to hear a passenger describe Benjamin Franklin’s experiment of passing electric current through miles of wire. The current had sparked instantaneously at the opposite end.

And Samuel thought, Perhaps there is a way to make rapid communication possible.  He began to devise plans immediately.

Now one might think such a worthy endeavor, undertaken by a devout believer in Jesus, would receive God’s blessing, and the road from experimentation to completion would be level, smooth, and short.

Not so.

For years he worked through disappointments and setbacks. Finally, in 1842, Samuel applied for a patent. The next hurdle: to find financial support in order to put his invention to work.

Two more years passed as Samuel tried to find backers, first in the U.S. and then in Europe. No one was interested.

A man of lesser faith would surely have given up; but not Samuel. During this time, he wrote:

“I am perfectly satisfied that, mysterious as it may seem to me, it has all been ordered in view of my Heavenly Father’s guiding hand” (1).

And…

“The only gleam of hope, and I cannot underrate it, is from confidence in God…I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence” (2).

 

(The House of Representatives, by Samuel, 1822-1823)

 

Finally, the U.S. Congress allotted $30,000 for him to lay cable across the harbor between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Samuel invited the daughter of a friend to choose the first transmitted words. She selected a passage from scripture, knowing that behind Samuel’s passion and perseverance was the God who had inspired and sustained him.

On May 24, 1844 in Washington, DC, Samuel tapped out the first telegraph message in a binary code he invented. It soon bore his name—Morse code.

 

 

Instantly in Baltimore, the message was received: “What hath God wrought,” (Numbers 23:23).

 

 

By the mid-1850s, more than 20,000 miles of cable had been laid across America.

 

(Samuel Morse, 1857.  Photograph by Matthew Brady)

 

And by the mid-1860s, a cable was laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, providing instantaneous communication between America and Europe.

Samuel Morse became one of the most famous men in the world and acquired great wealth (much of which he donated to charity).

But Samuel made it clear:

“It is [God’s] work,” he wrote; “and He alone carried me thus far through all my trials and enabled me to triumph over the obstacles, physical and moral, which opposed me. ‘Not unto us, not unto us, but to Thy name, O Lord, be all the praise’”(3).

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, yes—“To Thy name, O Lord, be all the praise”—in spite of the trials and obstacles that threaten. Thank you for the legacy of saints like Samuel Morse who teach us that even difficulties and disappointments have purpose: to teach us how to hope, persevere, and trust.

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/samuel-morse-the-artist-who-invented-the-morse-code/
  2. (https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1701-1800/the-amazing-morses-sam-and-jed-11630271.html
  3. https://crev.info/scientists/samuel-f-b-morse/

 

Sources:

  1. https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/samuel-morse-the-artist-who-invented-the-morse-code/
  2. (https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1701-1800/the-amazing-morses-sam-and-jed-11630271.html
  3. https://crev.info/scientists/samuel-f-b-morse/
  4. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-transatlantic-telegraph-cable-completed

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

P.S.    We received the wonderful news this afternoon:  Steve is now on the wait list (at least six months) for a liver transplant!  Thank you all for your continued prayers of healing for him.

 

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