Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2020

 

After a long siege of cold, dismal days in our area, Saturday dawned warm and bright—a perfect morning to tend the planting beds in front of our house. You’d think that inclement weather would stunt spring growth. But it seems all God needs is plentiful rainfall to paint the landscape in countless shades of green.

 

 

But even on a morning of sunshine and birdsong, I am not one of those gardeners who revels in puttering about in the dirt. My attitude is much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s toward writing. He said, “I dislike writing; I love to have written.”

I dislike gardening; I love to have gardened.

 

(Oh, to skip the gardening for a “have gardened” spot like this!)

 

Not that we have fussy plants needing a lot of attention. We purposely chose bushes and perennials that don’t. Nonetheless, they do require a seasonal schedule of fertilizing, occasional pest control, weekly trimming and weeding.

Sometimes I turn my plant-tending duties into a gratitude challenge, to help pass the time more pleasantly. How many things can I notice to thank God for? Of course, a cardinal serenade, the neighbors’ friendly hellos as they walk by, and a welcome breeze are often included.

 

 

Sometimes a new item makes the list, like the tiger swallowtail butterfly that stopped by one time to cheer me on.

 

 

But Saturday I decided to follow Wordsworth’s advice:

 

 

As it turned out, many lessons presented themselves; perhaps too many to share here. I’m prayerful that among the observations below, you’ll find a new idea to ponder.

 

  • Weeds overtaking a garden remind us of such sins as worry, discontent, and fear that can quickly grow out of control and overtake the mind (Psalm 31:13-15). They need to be routed by the calming truth of God’s Word.

 

 

  • Plants that turn toward the sun, in order to absorb energy for photosynthesis, bring to mind the faithful child of God. He turns toward the Father of heavenly lights in order to absorb the strength, encouragement and wisdom the Father offers, thus enabling the believer to grow in spiritual maturity (Ephesians 5:8-9).

 

 

  • On Saturday I clipped the first three roses for 2020. Of course, I wore my gardening gloves to avoid the prickly thorns, and this familiar quote came to mind:

 

 

I love the way a turn of phrase can turn my thinking and my attitude. You too?

 

  • Every summer we enjoy a constant replenishing of sunshine-yellow day lilies, lavender hydrangeas, as well as the blushing pink roses—all perennials that bloom faithfully year after year.

They offer a reminder of God’s grace—the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God—always plentiful, beautiful, reliable, and never-ending.

 

(A perennial flower bed, though not ours)

 

  • Pruning back the low-hanging branches on the weeping cherry tree brought to mind John 15:1-2. In those verses, Jesus compared the vinedresser’s work of pruning to God’s work of cutting away everything in our lives that’s not to our benefit.

Sounds painful, doesn’t it. But instead of dreading such action, we can be happily grateful. The pruning liberates us from all the dead weight that interferes with God’s blessings.

For example, the slicing away of self-centeredness allows the blessing of generosity to flourish (Acts 20:35). The snipping off of negativity permits more pleasure of positivity (Proverbs 17:22).

 

 

And the removal of prideful self-sufficiency fosters the growth of peaceful dependence in the all-sufficient One, God himself (2 Corinthians 3:5).

 

Well, it’s just as I thought. More lessons came to mind last Saturday morning than can be shared here. This post is long enough.

The exercise did accomplish its purpose. Before I knew it, the time for gardening had given way to have gardened. I not only came away with roses for a vase…

 

 

 

…but blessings for my heart.

 

What lessons have you discovered while working in the yard?  Share your experience in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.canva.com (4); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg.

 

Read Full Post »

 

“It is not mere reading, but meditation…

…which extracts the sweetness and the power out of Scripture.”

—James Stalker

 

I like the sound of that, don’t you—extracting all the sweetness and power out of Scripture?

To that end, I chose to follow a suggested psalm for meditating, #116, allowing those verses that apply to speak sweetness and power to my spirit. Then I framed my response as a prayer back to God.

Following is part of the result. It’s my hope you’ll find your heart responding too. You can add your own verse of personalized psalm in the comment section below!

 

PSALM 116:1-5, 7,

PERSONALIZED

 

 

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy” (v. 1).

Time and again you have heard my voice, O God as I’ve cried out in need. Your answers have flowed in countless mercies of provision, guidance, protection, strength, wisdom, and more.

 I remember: 

  • Your provision of a short-term assignment my seventeenth summer that turned into employment, enabling me to pay a good share of my college expenses.
  • Your guidance to marry Steve, even though he was headed toward the pastorate (and becoming a minister’s wife raised serious apprehensions in my heart).

 

(Just a few years ago–August 1, 1970)

 

  • Your protection from relationships that wouldn’t have been good for me, which I only recognized in hindsight.
  • Your strength to withstand stormy circumstances now and then–like the uncomfortable and stressful moves to new churches.
  • Your wisdom slowly but surely seeping into my soul over the decades, one discovery or lesson at a time—an ongoing process.

How can I not love you, my generous and attentive Heavenly Father?

 

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live” (v. 2).

Why would I turn anywhere else? You are the only One who can truly help in every situation.

At the first whisper of your name you draw near–such a precious reality. And just as you’ve promised, you give strength and bless me with peace in your presence (Psalm 29:11).

I’ll never forget that morning during a particularly difficult time, when I randomly opened my Bible first, before turning to the day’s assignment in the study guide. 

To my amazement, the first instruction directed me to a Bible verse already on display, at the top of the page no less.  I could almost hear your voice saying, “This verse is for you, Nancy”:

 

 

Granted, that understanding may not come this side of heaven, but one day I’ll know. In the meantime I trust you, my loving, sovereign Father.

 

“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow (v. 3).”

Remember the time we rushed Heather (1) to the hospital, after severe pain awakened her in the middle of the night?

Few distresses cause anguish like seeing your child suffer and being helpless to stop it.

 

“Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Lord, save [us] (v. 4)!’”

 

 

All the way to the hospital I prayed, “Jesus!  Jesus”  Jesus!”  That was all my troubled spirit could muster.

But even such a simple prayer wields power, because your name, O God, represents your character. To call on your name is to trust you will work on our behalf.

By 9:00 a.m., we were heading home, with Heather sleeping peacefully (2).

 

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (v. 5).

You have been incredibly gracious over the years.

 I remember: 

  • Scholarships and grants provided for our children’s education.
  • Funds arriving at just the right time, like the unexpected tax return–three years late–that paid for the new refrigerator we needed.
  • God-enhanced moments, as I’ve breathed in the glory of…

…your nighttime sky filled with stars,

 

 

or the tiny wonder of a single star hidden within a flower.

 

 

 …the delight of a newborn grandchild in my arms, and the moment months later when those little arms wrapped around me.

 

 

 …friends who are family, and family who are friends.

 

 

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (v. 7).

 I do seek rest in your love and faithfulness, O God, your gracious kindness and wisdom. Even if not one more blessing came my way, I couldn’t complain.

 Glorious and majestic are your deeds, and your righteousness endures forever (Psalm 111:3)!

________________________________________________

 

Now it’s your turn, to add in the comment section below a bit of sweetness and power you’ve extracted from Psalm 116:1-5, 7.

Remember with me the wonderful works He has done, His miracles (Psalm 105:5a)!

 

Notes:

  1. Our daughter
  2. More details of the story can be found in a previous post, “When Circumstances Spin Out of Control.”

Photo credits:  http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com; Richard Schruel; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pickpik.com; Nancy Ruegg.

 

Read Full Post »

 

As I begin drafting this post, it’s Monday afternoon, May 11, and the temperature outside is forty-eight degrees. No, we do not live in the far north where such weather might be normal for mid-May. Our home is in Cincinnati, right across the Ohio River from the South—Kentucky to be exact.

Nonetheless, this spring has been a chilly and wet one for us (including parts of the South, I have to admit). Tomorrow morning meteorologists have issued another freeze warning for parts of our area. And the ten-day forecast includes five days of rain.

 

 

Sooner or later, however, summer will defeat winter. And while anticipating sunshine and short sleeves, I remember the Bible verse, “The Lord God is a sun and shield” (Psalm 84:11).

Perhaps I can keep myself cheerfully occupied, even on a damp and cloudy afternoon, by contemplating God’s sun-like qualities.

For example:

  • The sun is ever-present. No matter how gray the sky, the sun’s rays penetrate, supporting life on our planet. Praise God he is always present, always supporting us–especially on the dark days of pain, sorrow, or hardship (Psalm 46:1).

 

 

  • The sun is perfect in size, brightness, temperature, and even distance from the earth, in order to sustain life on our fragile planet. Praise God he engineered such perfection and breathes life into every creature (Job 12:10).

 

 

  • The sun is big, its mass making up 99.8% of our solar system. Most of the final .2% comes from Jupiter. Earth is a mere speck by comparison. Yet our God is bigger than the entire cosmos, filling heaven and earth with his omnipresence (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

 

 

  • The sun’s gravitational pull keeps all the planets of the solar system orbiting around it. God the Son proclaimed that he would draw all people to himself. And within the orbit of his love and care we can thrive (John 12:32; Hebrews 11:6).

 

 

  • The sun provides remarkable beauty at sunrise and sunset. And to the far north, solar wind creates the mesmerizing light patterns of the Aurora Borealis. Of course, God is responsible for such displays and countless more across the planets, the galaxy, the universe (Psalm 104:24).

 

(Space Nebula)

 

  • As already mentioned, the sun offers life-changing benefits such as: 1) light, symbolic of God’s enlightenment, guidance, and goodness (Daniel 2:22, James 1:17), 2) warmth and comfort, reminding us of our contentment in God (Proverbs 19:23), and 3) good cheer when it breaks through stubborn clouds, a metaphor for the face of God shining on us with blessing (Numbers 6:24-26).

 

 

Of course, the comparison of God to anything else eventually breaks down.

For example, we can never have too much of God, but too much sun is detrimental to plant life and humans. That’s when it’s valuable to remember the second part of Psalm 84:11 (the verse where we began this exploration):  our God is also a shield.

 

 

 

I’m thinking of my brother’s and sister-in-law’s vegetable garden—carefully fenced to keep out critters, and also outfitted with a removable screen roof. They live in south/central Texas where summer temperatures can top one hundred degrees for days at a stretch. That screen does an excellent job of shielding the plants from scorching heat.

And the images of both sunshine and shade depict another aspect of our all-proficient God: He provides exactly what we need when we need it. Sometimes it’s abundant blessing, sometimes its opportunity for challenge and growth, often it’s both at the same time.

 

 

“He suits himself to every varying circumstance in life.

He becomes what the exigency of the moment requires.

And as the psalmist well says,

he withholds no good thing

from those that walk uprightly.”

—F. B. Meyer

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I praise You, O God, for your splendor like a glorious sunrise—when rainbow hues dance among the clouds. I praise you that every attribute contributing to your glorious splendor is also at work in our lives—your creativity, wisdom, power, and faithfulness.

 But when we’re overwhelmed by the heat of difficult times, I thank you for being like a shield. You are our Protector who attentively watches over us with your unfailing love. You are our safety, our eternal hope.

Thank you for your promise that through cold or heat, rain or shine: “Blessed is the one who trusts in you.”  

(Habakkuk 3:4; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 3:3, 8; Psalm 33:20-22; Psalm 84:12)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainfiles.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com.

 

Read Full Post »

 

Oh, no. Where’s the cream? A thorough search of the fridge had just revealed an inconvenient truth. I’d forgotten to purchase the whipping cream.

With dinner guests arriving in a few hours, and three little ones underfoot, I dreaded the thought of packing everybody into the car to purchase one item at the grocery store. Besides, the to-do list still included many tasks. What’s a woman to do?

Call her husband.

“I’m so sorry to bother you, but could you stop at the store on your way home from the office and pick up some whipping cream? I need it for tonight’s dessert, and somehow came home without it yesterday.”

“Sure, I can do that,” he replied. “No problem.”

Two hours later Steve walked in the door, cream in hand.

I knew I could count on him; he’d proven himself trustworthy countless times before. (Even if he’d forgotten, Steve would have gone back to the store and made good on his promise.)

So why is it, when God says, “What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do” (Isaiah 46:11b), my response is sometimes doubt?

 

 

Of course, the promises I ask God to fulfill usually require more than two hours of wait time. It’s in the long siege on pause I begin to wonder: Maybe this promise that seemed so perfect for my situation isn’t really for me after all (1).

Have such thoughts occurred to you also?

Here’s what I’m trying to remember: If I trust Steve, based on promises he’s kept in the past, how much more should I take God at his word?

 

 

In addition, he is perfect in all his ways, loving and compassionate, abundantly good and righteous (2).  Our faith in God’s promises can remain firm because:

 

 

So as I wait for fulfillment, I can remember: out of the several thousand promises in scripture, he has already kept many of them in specific, personal ways.

He’s done the same for you too.

It would be impractical to make a list here of all those Bible promises, checking them off one by one as we remember occasions when each was fulfilled. But what if we identify categories, and check off those? Categories such as:

  • Salvation and the gift of eternal life (John 6:40)
  • A relationship with God Almighty and his continual presence (Revelation 3:20; Psalm 145:18)
  • Forgiveness (1 John 1:9)
  • Emotional stability (Psalm 27:1), peace ((Isaiah 26:3), and joy (John 15:11)

 

 

  • Protection (Psalm 32:7)
  • Provision (Philippians 4:19)
  • Guidance (Isaiah 58:11)
  • Satisfaction in life (John 10:10)

 

 

  • Help (Psalm 46:1)
  • Answered prayer (1 John 5:14-15)
  • Blessings (Psalm 84:11-12)

 

No doubt all of us can name events when such promises have been fulfilled—the day we said yes to Jesus, the times we experienced an unearthly reassurance of God’s presence, or received miraculous provision, enjoyed divine contentment, felt his inexplicable peace, and more.

In remembering we foster the courage to persevere and the faith to hope with confident expectation.

So what event, what answer to prayer are you hoping for today? Can you identify an appropriate promise? The scriptures above offer a place to start. And then let’s pray our promises.

 

 

For example:

I praise You, O God, for your promise of protection from trouble. Not that I expect to never experience difficulty, but I can count on You to guard me as we pass through it.

 As long as the trouble may last, you will be with me, to shelter me in your comfort and be my helper through the challenge. Never will you abandon me; I am secure in you.

I look forward, Father, to every statement here coming to fruition, because you have said it. My heart is steadfast, trusting in you.

 

(Psalm 32:7; James 1:2-4; Psalm 23:4; 9:9; 34:19;

Hebrews 13:6; Proverbs 14:26, Psalm 112:7)

 

 

What is a favorite scripture promise you turn to again and again?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Sometimes there are good reasons why promises are not fulfilled.  See “Unfulfilled Promises” for several possibilities.
  2. Psalm 18:30; Psalm 103:4; Psalm 145:7, 17

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com (3); http://www.needpix.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

Read Full Post »

Living Our Days

Gaining a heart of wisdom

SMALL TOWN STRANIERA

Where Faith, Italy and Slow Life Come Together

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Heidi Viars

Taking a closer look

Unshakable Hope

"All of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain." (Hebrews 12:27)

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions