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Archive for May, 2019

(The view from my deck chair)

 

As spring approaches I look forward to spending my morning quiet time on our deck—taking in the new foliage-finery of the trees, the happy chatter of birds, the whispering breezes, and the sweet aroma of alyssum from the deck planter.

There’s something about sitting with God in his Living Room* that opens our eyes to his glory and draws our spirits closer to his heart.

Saturday was just such a day. And as I sat in His presence, God seemed to say:

I’m so glad you’re here, Nancy! I’ve planned several discoveries for you this morning.

 

From the Trees

 

 

First, lift your eyes to the trees. Rejoice in the reminders of:

  • My strength (Psalm 93:1)–in the stalwart trunks
  • My refuge (Psalm 25:4)–in their far-reaching limbs, offering shelter from the heat
  • My provision (Philippians 4:19)–as they produce oxygen, give shelter to birds and animals, even provide food

Note the evidence of competence in their design–for purpose, beauty, and sustainability.   I am your God of Competence as well, and have designed you to fulfill an individualized purpose, provide the beauty of Christlikeness to those around you, and spend eternity with Me. 

 

From the Birds

 

(white-breasted nuthatch)

 

You can also revel in the birds—symbols of reliance on Me, and again, My provision (Matthew 6:26). Note the variety of color, pattern, song, and habit. Let the joy you experience watching birds remind you how I value your uniqueness.

Choose to celebrate who you are: the colors of your personality, the pattern of your life, the song of gifts and talents I’ve given you to share with the world, the habits of goodness I continue to form in you so you can impact others.

 

From the Squirrels

 

 

Together we can enjoy the antics of the squirrels! They too provide reminders for the life of faith:

 

  • Even when they walk upside down on a branch, they do not fall. Similarly, I make firm your steps and keep you from falling (Psalm 37:24).

 

  • With great confidence squirrels jump from limb to limb. You can live in great confidence also, because I’ve equipped you for what I ask you to do. (Ephesians 4:12; Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

  • Every time they return to their nesting tree, they follow the same pathway through the branches. They remember well which branches offer the best proximity to the next tree.

I have provided a sure pathway for you to navigate through life. You can run in the path of my wise commands; my ways will bring you home safely (Psalm 119:32a; 139:24b).

 

  • Squirrels can sit quite contentedly, even take a nap, on the very end of a branch—never concerning themselves they might fall or the branch might give way. They provide an example of perfect trust (Isaiah 26:3).

I am your security (Psalm 112:8). Out of My love and faithfulness, I will always protect you (Psalm 40:11)—even as I bring you home to heaven one day.

So when you find yourself at the end of a branch, and fear starts to creep in, send it scurrying away with My Word—verses like Psalm 27:1:

 

(Another view from our deck)

 

The Lord is my Light—

[My Joy, Peace, and Guide]

The Lord is my Salvation—

[My Protection, Provision, and Security]

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is my Stronghold—

[The Treasury of all good things]

Of whom shall I be afraid?

 

*      *      *

 

*a creative expression originated by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.maxpixel.net; Nancy Ruegg

 

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A homeless woman slumped against the familiar brick wall of the warehouse, then grouped her plastic shopping bags snugly around her. Next she looped several bag-handles on her legs, and stretched her arms over the rest. The worry of losing to theft any of her treasured possessions kept her vigilant. Once settled, she succumbed to a fitful doze.

A man approached. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he called gently. “Are you Genevieve Bartlett?”

The woman startled awake, instinctively clutching her belongings more tightly. “What if I am?” she grumbled.

“Well, if you can answer a few questions for me, I may have some excellent news for you,” he replied calmly, recognizing that defensiveness in her position was only to be expected.

Genevieve returned his gaze with a scowl, but sat up straighter, readying herself to listen. The questions were easy: what were the names of her deceased parents and grandparents, when and where had she been born, and where had she attended school.

The man handed her his card and began to explain. “My name is Henry Lewis. I’m a lawyer, here to inform you you’re the last surviving Bartlett of your family, and you’ve just inherited fifty million dollars. If you’ll come with me, we can take care of the details at my office, and start the process of…finding a more comfortable situation for you. Would that be to your liking?”

 

 

Genevieve didn’t move for several moments. “Fifty million dollars,” she repeated slowly, and studied the lawyer’s face. Could he possibly be telling the truth? But why else would he seek her out at the warehouse?

Genevieve suddenly slipped the bag-handles off her legs, stood up, and announced, “I’m ready, let’s go!” Without even looking back, Genevieve left her shopping bags and their worthless contents on the pavement.

Out of several interpretations for this story, consider the shopping bags as representative of our fears. Don’t we sometimes hold on to them—worthless as they are—as tightly as Genevieve held on to her belongings?

But as God’s children, we possess tremendous wealth, worth much more than fifty million dollars, because “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure” (Matthew 13:44). And unlike Genevieve during her homeless days, we have access to a good part of that treasure now, if we let go of our worries and lay hold of our wealth.

 

 

So what might that treasure include?  Consider the following:

1. God’s Glorious Provision. Unlike Genevieve, we know a glorious inheritance is waiting for us.  Ours is in heaven—an inheritance so magnificent, when we arrive there, we’ll look back on our earthly lives “as an insubstantial dream from which we have happily awoken” (Austin Farrer).

2. God’s Involvement. He is always at work. Take note of his wisdom in creation, his engineering of life-circumstances, and his generosity in the blessings he bestows. God even makes joy available in the midst of trouble. 

3. God’s Sovereignty.  No doubt Mr. Lewis designed a plan for Genevieve to provide for her well-being. God too has designed a perfect and purposeful plan to accomplish much good, in the world at large and for each of us individually.  Whatever we entrust to him, he will take care of much better than we can.

 

 

4. God’s Unfailing Love.  We can leave our worries behind, as Genevieve did her shopping bags, when we dwell on the lovingkindness of God. In fact, peace of heart is guaranteed–if we keep our focus upon him. 

5. God’s Constant Presence. He is always with us—even as we wait for him to act. The attentive person recognizes his presence in the aria of a songbird, the sunbeams of a morning, the spontaneous hug of a friend.

 

 

6. God’s Kindness and Care.  Surely Genevieve marveled for the rest of her days how Mr. Lewis had changed her life.  We can draw strength and great delight from remembering God’s gracious provisions of our past.

7. God’s Powerful Word. Scripture offers indispensable comfort and encouragement, reminding us that God is our protective Shield and dependable Rock, our caring Shepherd and devoted Helper, our loving Provider and strong Confidence.

 

 

In these seven ways and more, God generously shares his inheritance with us now, giving us the opportunity to overcome anxiety with joy.   After all, every fear about our future, safety, health, suffering, death, financial woes, inadequacy, and events beyond our control are good-for-nothing baggage.

The question becomes: Will I let go of my worthless bags of worries and lay hold of my glorious inheritance?

 

 

Scripture Notes for:

  1. 1 Peter 1:3-4
  2. Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 94:19
  3. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Romans 8:28
  4. Psalm 94:17-18; Isaiah 26:3
  5. Psalm 23:4
  6. Psalm 92:4
  7. Psalm 3:3; 18:2; 23:1; 46:1; 78:23-29; Proverbs 14:26

 

(Genevieve’s story is based on an illustration from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “To Give You the Kingdom.”)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; wwww.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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“Here comes another one!” little Jim cried to his dad, as they stood atop the small airport terminal not far from their house. Father and son spent occasional afternoons watching the planes take off and land, much to Jim’s delight.

His sharp ears would pick up a plane’s droning buzz before his eyes could make out the small dot in the sky. He hardly breathed as the plane slowly descended, then lightly touched down on the landing field.

The wonder never grew old. And Jim wished more than anything to be in the cockpit, participating in the miracle of flight, not just observing.

That dream stayed with Jim all through school. Upon graduation he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, and then entered the Air Force. His plan was to become a commercial pilot after his term of service.

 

(The P-51 Mustang)

 

And then Jim chanced to fly a P-51, the fastest jet of the time and capable of flying almost vertically. After that experience, commercial piloting seemed much too tame.

Jim went back to school to earn his master’s degree in aeronautical and instrumentation engineering and graduated in 1957.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established the following year and Jim Irwin set his sites on becoming an astronaut. To achieve that goal he needed to become a test pilot.

 

 

Jim entered that program in 1960. Once qualified he was assigned to a top-secret mission: testing a plane that flew higher and faster than any previous aircraft.

Three times he applied for the astronaut program; twice he was rejected. Finally in 1966 his acceptance letter arrived. Jim’s first assignment was to direct the testing of a lunar landing module that engineers were designing.

 

 

Then came the moment he’d been waiting for. He and fellow astronauts David Scott and Alfred Worden were chosen for the Apollo 15 mission, scheduled to take place the summer of 1971.

Eighteen months of intense training were required to prepare the men for the twelve-day expedition, three of which would be spent on the moon.

The boy who wanted to fly would soar where only a dozen men had traveled before him.

 

 

Their mission included collecting rock samples and conducting experiments in an unexplored region of the moon. They would also be the first astronauts to drive a Lunar Rover that allowed investigation of a larger area than that of previous missions.

Jim was the eighth person to walk on the moon—certainly a thrill-of-a-lifetime. But later he would insist, those moments on the moon weren’t exciting because he was there, but because God was there. Jim profoundly sensed his presence.

 

 

He’d been a Christian for over twenty years by 1971, but “I was…[a] silent Christian,” he would explain.

On the moon, as Jim looked up at Planet Earth against the black backdrop of the universe, he marveled at its fragile appearance—so delicate that if someone reached out to touch it, the world would surely crumble and fall apart, he said. Jim experienced overwhelming awe for the creation of God and his love for the entire human race—love that sent his Son Jesus earthward to die in their place.

 

 

One of Jim’s responsibilities on the mission was to set up the mechanism for lunar experiments. Not all steps proceeded successfully. But instead of inquiring the NASA engineers, Jim prayed, because waiting for a reply from Houston would take too long.

Each time he sensed God telling him what to do, and he felt the supernatural presence of God with him as he worked. That sensation was so strong, Jim felt sure if he turned around, Jesus would be standing right there at his shoulder.

As complicated as the moon landings were, Apollo 15 proceeded without major problems. The three astronauts landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on August 7, even though one parachute (out of three) didn’t deploy.

 

 

A little more than two weeks later Irwin, Scott, and Worden were honored by a ticker tape parade in New York City. As Jim waved to the thousands gathered along the street, his heart ached for those who did not know Jesus as a personal Friend, and he felt God wanted him to tell others about his Son.

A year later Jim resigned from NASA and formed the High Flight Foundation to share about Jesus from his experiences as an astronaut, and to encourage archaeological research, confirming the accuracy of the Bible.

Jim even participated in exploration of Mt. Ararat in Turkey, where other adventurers claimed to have seen what looked like ship remains, high up on the slopes. Conjecturers proposed that perhaps Noah’s ark had been found.

 

(Mount Ararat, nearly 17,000 ft. in elevation)

 

Jim’s astronaut-status provided opportunities that other exploratory teams had not been able to achieve. Government officials allowed the High Flight Foundation access to sites that had been refused to others. Yet in spite of these privileges, Jim and his crew never found the ancient ark.

For twenty years after his moon-landing adventure, Jim Irwin told others that “Jesus walking on earth was much more important than man walking on the moon, that Jesus was the way to know God and receive eternal life.”*

 

 

The day before the twentieth anniversary of his homecoming from the moon, the boy who wanted to fly flew further still. Jim experienced his homecoming in heaven, due to a massive heart attack. He was survived by his wife Mary and their five children.

No doubt, James Benson Irwin heard those beautiful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21)!” Only this time, Jim didn’t just feel Jesus’ presence. This time, Jim was able to see his Savior and Friend face to face.

 

 

* https://godreports.com/2100/03/encounter-with-jesus-on-the-moon-left-astronaut-changed/

 

Sources:

  1. https://biography.yourdictionary.com/james-benson-irwin
  2. https://crev.info/scientists/james-irwin/
  3. https://defendingthechristianfaith.org/others-who-testify-of-faith-in-christ.html
  4. https://godreports.com/2011/03/encounter-with-jesus-on-the-moon-left-astronaut-changed/
  5. https://ramsheadpress.com/messiah/ch17.html
  6. https://www.rocketstem.org/2015/07/07/rovering-across-the-moon-during-apollo-15/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.ebay.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil; http://www.nasa.gov; http://www.jsc.nasa.gov; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (3); http://www.canva.com.

 

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Along with spring-cleaning of the house, I thought perhaps a purging of the blog-post-ideas file would be worthwhile. Six years of collecting starters has produced thirty-five pages of possibilities.

Some ideas have languished in a notebook nearly the whole six years. It’s probably time to admit they’re never going to amount to anything, I decided.

Then you came to mind! Maybe you’ll see potential where I’ve given up hope. And with a deft question or suggestion you’ll send me off researching and keyboarding with your fresh insight.

Or, you’ll say, “I’d like to know more about that. Keep that one in the hopper!” And the life of that idea will thus be saved.

So what occurs to you about these topics, dear readers? Do you see any possibilities here for a worthwhile post or two?

  1. From Anxiety to Joy. Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” What might those consolations be that can bring joy in the midst of anxiety? (That’s quite a feat!)

 

 

2.  God’s ways are an outgrowth of his character—even when tragedy strikes. How can hurt and pain be the outgrowth of God’s beautiful and perfect attributes?

3.  Delight and Desire. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” How do we learn to delight in the Lord and desire what he desires?

4.  The Adventure of Grace. What insight might we gain from the definition of adventure? How is the life of grace is like an adventure, and why is that attitude helpful? How can we embrace the adventure more enthusiastically?

 

 

5.  The power of right attitudes over body, mind, and spirit. What have medical science and psychology discovered about the impact of attitudes? What does scripture have to say? How can we change our attitudes?

6.  “He who keeps one end in view makes all things serve”—Robert Browning.   That statement is true in the Christian life: if our main ambition is to fulfill God’s purpose, then all events will serve equally well.

7.  Goodness is not only good for those around us, it’s good for us.

8.  How do we accept with grace the circumstances that are unpleasant and outside our control?

9.  Turning Boredom into Contentment. Life can be full of mundane tasks that sap the joy right out of our spirits. What’s a person to do?!

 

 

10.  Game-Changers. Our viewpoints of life’s circumstances are perhaps more important than the circumstances themselves. Sometimes all it takes is a pithy statement to change our attitude. Possibilities include: “We obey God, not because we have to but because we get to” (A quote from one of the lay pastors at our church.) Or, how about this statement: “If the Lord does not change the place for the better, he will make us better in the place” (Charles Spurgeon). What other perspective-changers can we apply on a circumstantial rainy day?

11. Taking offense at less and less provocation seems to have pervaded our culture. What happened to resilience? Is it important? Does the Bible give us instruction for this attribute? How do we develop it?

12.  Rock Climbing—a metaphor for life. We need the handholds of God’s character when life becomes a difficult climb. We must cling to his attributes.

 

 

That’s enough for today. I’ll look forward to reading your creative suggestions in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.nps.gov; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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Years ago when I taught fourth grade, our reading curriculum included a mini-lesson about A-HA Moments—places in a story where the author answers questions the reader has been wondering about.

Watching for those moments keeps the reader alert (thus improving comprehension), contributes to greater understanding of the plot and characters, and makes reading more fun.

Once our students became familiar with the concept, we enjoyed calling out “A-HA!” to one another (occasionally in unison) as other epiphanies occurred, whether it was in class or at recess. The sharing of A-HA Moments developed our classroom community and added to the joy of learning.

 

 

Our Heavenly Father also provides A-HA Moments, through such avenues as scripture, other reading, comments from others, and observations in nature. Our God is highly creative, providing personal revelations in numerous ways.

And similar to the benefits of A-HA Moments for students, our discovery moments with God augment our understanding of scripture and spiritual matters, strengthen our relationship with him, and add to the joy of learning from him.

For example:

 

 

  • An A-Ha Moment from Scripture

After six delightful years at one church, my pastor-husband received word he’d be assigned to a new congregation in three months’ time. My heart sank. This would be our third such move in thirteen years, and it wasn’t getting easier. As you know, saying good-bye hurts.

In addition, I had just returned that year to full-time teaching, after a long hiatus as a stay-at-home mom. Now I’d face the onerous task of procuring another position.

In the weeks that followed the announcement, we learned about some of the difficult challenges facing the new-to-us congregation.   And I wondered, God, what ARE you doing?

 

 

One afternoon a radio host quoted Jeremiah 29:11—a familiar scripture—but that day those words spoke loud and clear to me from God himself: Nancy, there is no reason to worry. I have already worked out my plans for you—plans to prosper you, not harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a thriving future.

Indeed we did prosper at that new church—for thirteen years—as God brought us and taught us through those numerous challenges. But one problem took care of itself—a new teaching position for me. (You can read that story at After the Fact.)

 

  • An A-HA Moment from other reading

 

 

The fact I’m writing about this topic today is the result of an A-HA Moment in itself. First, the seed of an idea was already on my topic list for 2019, but I had no notion how to develop it.

Currently I’m studying Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. And just the other day I read this:

 

“I know the Lord is speaking to me personally when I read my Bible

and a particular verse or passage seems illuminated

—it just lifts up off the page,

and I seem to hear a gentle, inaudible whisper

as I have an ‘aha moment’ in my heart.”

–Anne Graham Lotz

 

Anne’s A-HA Moment caused me to have one of my own. God brought to mind the story about moving I just shared above as well as other examples. Then he pointed out other avenues of A-HA Moments, and I knew this was today’s topic.

 

 

  • An A-HA Moment in God’s Living Room

That’s what Michael Hyatt* calls the out-of-doors.  Isn’t that a poetically perfect appellation?   My special corner in God’s living room is our back deck overlooking the treetops.

One morning last October, the deck was surrounded by stillness—no birds trilled, no squirrels chattered—until one lone cardinal began to sing. Enthusiastically he filled our little woods with his voice, and his song made me smile.

I was reminded that God often breaks through the stillness of all our lives, with custom-designed lessons, answered prayers, and out-of-the-blue blessings. As a result, we experience hope, peace, and joy—three commodities that make life worth living.

 

 

Recorded in my journal is the impression God spoke in my spirit:

I do love to surprise My children! And their subsequent celebrations of praise bring Me great pleasure. But in reality I provide more wonders than they often perceive. Some surprises go unnoticed.

Keep watching and listening, Nancy, so we can smile, laugh, and celebrate together all the delightful surprises I bring into your life.

And therein lies the secret for experiencing life-enriching A-HA Moments with God: keeping watch (Micah 7:7) and listening attentively (Proverbs 1:5).

 

 

“Blessed are your eyes because they see,

and your ears because they hear.”

–Matthew 13:16

 

*former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

What A-HA Moment has God presented to you lately? Tell us your story in the Comments section below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.kadena.af.mil; http://www.calicospanish.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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