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Archive for June, 2020


In a matter of minutes, our next-to-last exam of junior year would begin.  The room of high schoolers included a few serious students with heads in notebooks, but most of us chatted with one another, just anxious to be done.

“Hey!” cried one friend to a group of us girls sitting together.  “Let’s switch one shoe with somebody else for good luck!”  Giggles ensued as we tried different looks and different sizes, until each of us sported mismatched footwear.


After the exam, imagine our surprise when we were summoned to the office.

Someone thought the shoe-exchange was a means of cheating.  Thankfully our principal dismissed us immediately when we explained our silly scheme for good luck. 

Of course, certain shoes—or any other particular piece of clothing–have nothing to do with success.  Even those who’ve experienced a triumph or two while wearing a certain hat, jacket, or tie eventually find Lady Luck has left the building. 

One high school basketball coach in Indiana wore the same patchwork pants for every game, and his team won twenty-seven times in a row.* 

But then came Game #28.

Much more important than a basketball game or even a high school exam, God has prepared us clothing for life.  Granted, the apparel he provides is metaphorical and made for the spiritual realm.  But it creates much greater impact on our lives than mismatched shoes or patchwork pants.

Perhaps you’re thinking of the armor that Paul described in his letter to the Ephesians, including the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and more.


But our Designer God is ready to provide another article of clothing, mentioned in Isaiah 61:3—a garment of praise.

Now some might wonder, Isn’t that self-serving of God—to offer us a garment of praise so we’ll applaud, admire, and honor him?

Not at all.   Just as we enjoy giving pleasure to others through accolades of their character or actions, we find joy in acclaiming God for all he is and does. 

Praise takes our focus off problematic people and circumstances, and draws our attention to the One who has brought us through every dark valley in the past, and will continue to do so until our life-journeys are complete. 

So what might this garment of praise look like—if it were visible?  I’m imagining a velvety-soft, lightweight cloak stretching all the way to our shoe tops and including a hood—for total coverage.


But in order to enjoy the supreme comfort of this robe, we have to get rid of the irritating clothing we sometimes wear:

  • The scratchy scarf of negativity
  • The constrictive shirt of fear
  • The hot collar of anger
  • The heavyweight coat of worry

We can’t savor life to its fullest in such uncomfortable clothes as these.  In contrast—as research on positivity and gratitude has proven–the garment of praise produces feel-good endorphins, uplifts our mood, and offers hope.

Of course, we have to put it on.  Too often we leave home without our praise-cloaks or it slips off our shoulders somewhere along the way.

Perhaps we could tie it on each morning with prayer and check the knot with prayer throughout the day. 

Perhaps something like this:


Lord, I thank you for my garment of praise—to keep me aware of your presence, happily occupied with thoughts of your attributes and blessings. Help me to always keep my praise-cloak in place.

Thank you that when I’m wrapped in my garment of praise I can experience your highest joy May I never leave home without it.

(Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 112:7, 43:4 GWT)


*Kathlyn Gay, They Don’t Wash Their Socks, Walker and Company, 2013.


Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flicr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.pilist.com.

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The view from my deck chair


(What follows is an imaginary exchange with God.)


ME:

Such perfect weather you’ve provided the last few days, Father, with temps dropping into the 50s by early morning and rising only into the 70s by afternoon.  I’m reveling in this absolute perfection while sitting here on the deck with you.

Sunbeams glint through openings in the tree branches, casting pools of  light into the undergrowth of the creek bed.  Birds tweet and chirp, warble and sing; squirrels scurry from tree to tree, out for their morning run.




Enhancing these pleasurable sights and sounds is your presence, O God.  How empty the wonder and joy would be without you to share the experience, without you to praise for your glorious handiwork.



Open my ears, eyes, and heart to more of your glory.

M-m-m.  Just as I was writing that sentence, the sun cleared the thick foliage of the trees in the neighbor’s yard and shone upon me.  Thank you, Lord, for the glory of your radiant presence that envelopes me.

GOD:

I anxiously await the day when you will experience the fullness of My glory, the day you enter heaven.  The wonders of creation you enjoy now give you a mere glimpse of what is to come:

  • An eternity of blissfully bright days, because I am the Source of Light.  Think of My Light as a symbol for all things good and beautiful, including complete knowledge, perfect righteousness, effervescent joy.  Such splendors are only the beginning.


  • Cheer-filled angel-song wafting through the air, like the bird-song surrounding you there on the deck.  And just as angels focus their music on worship, so do the birds (Psalm 66:4, Revelation 5:13).  They celebrate the dawn and life-giving Light; angels celebrate the Light of My Son Jesus and the life He bestows to all who come to Him.
  • The gentle wind of the Spirit is continually refreshing the atmosphere of heaven, similar to the breezes of earth.  In fact, each time you feel that silken brush of air against your skin, let it remind you of the comfort, strength, and peace in My Spirit’s presence—with you now and always.


  • The Tree of Life mentioned in Revelation gives a hint that there are trees in heaven.  Wait until you see the variety.  Botanists may marvel at the thousands of different species on earth, but what I’ve planted there is just a sample. 
  •  Oh, and I do love animals too.  They make Me smile right along with you.  I’m so glad you enjoy the daring antics of the squirrels, the waddling strut of the ducks, the graceful soaring of a hawk, the regal stance of the deer.  Again, don’t be surprised if more delightful species aren’t awaiting your discovery in heaven.

As you revel in creation (which I’m so delighted you do), let your joy lead you to anticipation in this:

From his book, Nearing Home


Soon you’ll experience “the unsurpassed joy, unfading glory, undiminished bliss, unlimited delights, and unending pleasures” (John MacArthur) of heaven.    

Rest assured:  life in heaven will never become boring.  You, along with all kingdom saints will reign together with Me forever and ever (Revelation 22:5), carrying out satisfying work and fulfilling important responsibilities.

And you will never come to the end of discovering My inexhaustible wonders, the splendor of My glory, or the marvels of My creation .

One day you’ll fully understand:


Just you wait!


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

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Mention “Fiji” and our imaginations conjure up aquamarine waters, sugar sand beaches, and lush foliage.  Add to the delightful surroundings a slow-paced lifestyle and some of the happiest people on earth (1); it’s easy to understand why many describe the islands as paradise.

But that’s not what John and Hannah Hunt experienced when they traveled to Fiji.  They encountered villagers who cut off the fingers of those caught stealing.  The sick and infirm were strangled to death, and victors of village wars ate their enemies.

The young newlyweds arrived on the island of Rewa in 1839, sent as missionaries by the Methodist mission board of England.  In spite of the obvious danger of living among cannibals, John wrote in his journal, “I feel myself saved from almost all fear though surrounded with men who have scarcely any regard for human life” (2).

Fijian Warriors (1915)


Though still in his twenties, John had been a well-respected preacher in England.  He was able to continue the same kind of work on several Fiji islands. 

The young missionary was quick to learn the language.  Soon he was preaching three sermons on Sunday and teaching throughout the week.  John also established a small medical clinic.  And during spare moments, he continued to study the Fijian language.

After six years of preaching, teaching, and building relationships, John felt led by God to hold a special prayer meeting.  The villagers came. 

He invited them to be set free from the fear and darkness of their violent practices and enjoy a new way of life with Jesus, as well as accept his gift of eternal life.  More than one hundred Fijians accepted that invitation, including the queen of their island.

Not long after, an enemy tribe attacked their village, intent upon killing them all.  But the war party inexplicably fled in fear.  Later these men admitted their plan failed because they suddenly knew the missionaries’ God was stronger than they were.

Not far away lay the island of Mbau, the highest seat of Fiji power.  The ruler, King Thakombau, was called “the butcher of his people.” 

But over time, the king’s respect for John Hunt grew.  When Thakombau’s general of war asked Jesus into his life, the king tried to dissuade him, but did not resort to violence.

 

King Thakombau


Excitement about Jesus spread from island to island, and brutal cannibals became transformed into peaceful, devout Christians.

One evening, as Fijian villagers worshiped, a band of thirty chiefs surrounded their church and threatened to kill everyone inside.  The congregants said and did nothing. 

Finally one of the chiefs entered the door, brandishing his club, but immediately fell to the floor in a swoon.  Other warriors entered, and they too collapsed until all thirty lay helpless.  By morning, every young man of that murderous mob had received Jesus.  

John soon turned his attention to translating the New Testament into the Fijian language.  With the help of others, he strived to express scripture with idioms and terms from Fijian culture.  The volume was published in 1847.

Old Fiji (1860)


John also trained villagers to teach the Bible.  The lectures were compiled into a manual of theology and used for decades.

On December 1, 1847 John wrote to friends in England:  “We can now report upwards of three thousand who attend our ministry and that of our teachers every Lord’s Day.”

During these ten years of ministry in Fiji, five children were born to John and Hannah.  Three are buried there, all before their second birthdays.

At age thirty-six, John succumbed to dysentery.  But according to historian, Rev. Joseph, Nettleton, John had “crowded the work of a lifetime into ten short years” (3).

A page from Christian Herald and Signs of Our Times (1886), honoring the work of John Hunt (top left) and colleague, James Calvert (top right).


The next day, King Thakombau came to pay his respects to the missionary.  He was given a letter, written by John not long before his death, expressing love and including a prayer for the monarch.  Thakombau was deeply moved and later he too came to faith in Jesus.

At the king’s baptism, a most unlikely crowd gathered:  widows of husbands he had killed, relatives of men he had eaten, and adult children who had formerly vowed revenge against Thakombau for the deaths of their fathers. 

God had rescued all of them from the dark power of Satan, had forgiven their sins, and set them all free (Colossians 1:13-14).


In 2012, two hundred years after John Hunt’s birth, Fijians held a grand celebration in honor of the man who had brought happiness to their islands—happiness in Jesus (4).  To this day, most indigenous Fijians are Christian (5).

Notes:

  1. https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/travel/6-reasons-fiji-is-one-of-the-happiest-places-on-earth
  2. https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/john-hunt/
  3. John Hunt, Missionary and Saint by Rev. Joseph Nettleton, p. 114.
  4. https://www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/wcr-julia-edwards-newsletter-junejuly2012.pdf
  5. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/religion-in-fiji-important-facts-andfigures.html#:~:text=Christianity%20in%20Fiji,Europeans%20than%20Fiji’s%20indigenous%20population.

Additional Sources:

  1. The Life of John Hunt, Missionary to the Cannibals in Fiji by George Stringer Row, 1874. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/AQY9133.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext
  2. “A Missionary Evangelist,” Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine, 1877, pp. 266-270. https://books.google.com/booksid=T29MAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA266&dq=Frank=Leslie%27s+pCdUQ6AEwAXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=Frank%Leslie’s%20Sunday%20Ma

Art & photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (3); http://www.heartlight.org

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are you still up?

That was the text sent by son #2 last Thursday evening, close to 10:00 p.m.

An interesting idea had just occurred to him, one that required input from his mother.  Maybe I should say output.

You see, Jeremy is a pastor, and although his church started worshiping together again two weeks ago, their choir is not participating in the services.  His worship leader has been singing solo; Jeremy has offered back-up.

But for May 31st, Pentecost Sunday, he was hoping for more.


First, he remembered a popular praise song released in 1998, Holy Spirit, Rain Down. Jeremy was in high school then and sang tenor on the praise team of the church where his dad (my husband) was pastor.  I sang alto. 

After reminding me of the song, Jeremy wondered if I could record that alto part with an instrumental/vocal track he’d send via email.  He would add the tenor part, and his worship leader the melody.

I reminded him my voice is not what it once was, and it’s been six years since I even sang in a choir.  But I didn’t want to tell him no without even trying.  Besides, how many times must I tell myself, “It. Doesn’t. Have. To. Be. Perfect!”


So on Friday, with Jeremy as my guide via phone and computer, I climbed the learning curve of Garage Band, an APP for making music with vocals and/or instruments—multiples if desired.  You’ve probably seen the results of such efforts on YouTube.  Perhaps you’ve recorded music yourself. 

Once set up, I could record as many times as needed and send Jeremy the best rendition.  But after practicing numerous times, my voice started to give out.  I had to quit.

Saturday morning was zero hour.  Either I’d be able to send Jeremy a decent alto part, or ruin his plan and tell him there would be no trio.  As I prepared to record, my heart started thrumming audibly and my breath coming faster than normal.

What is wrong with you?!  I scolded.  No one else is here in the study; you can record as many times as you want.  Get a grip!

The problem was clear:  A big cloud of nervous self-consciousness had enveloped me.

All I knew to do was pray.

Lord God, this is so silly.  WHY am I overcome with apprehension?  Even if I sing this twenty times and not one effort is perfect, what difference does it make?!


Calm these nerves, Heavenly Father.  Help me to lose focus on my performance and worship you unencumbered.  Remove this self-centeredness.  I want to be lost in the heartfelt prayer of these lyrics—so appropriate right now—and mindful only of you, my audience of One.*

Even before I’d finished, my heart rate began to slow and my breathing return to normal.  I sang the song twice, and sent the second effort to Jeremy.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.


When I confessed to Jeremy my case of senseless nerves and subsequent prayer, he said, “You’ve got a blog post here, Mom!”

Perhaps I do, I thought, since others suffer from self-consciousness also.  I wondered, Are there strategies we could implement to cure ourselves once and for all?

Here’s what a bit of reading revealed:

  • Prayer is the first step.  But we should not expect one prayer to vanquish all self-consciousness forever.  It’s a prayer we’ll likely have to renew every time that nuisance-of-an-emotion sidles up to us.
  • Focus on Who we’re seeking to honor.  The better our focus, the less we’ll be thinking about ourselves.


  • Just as Jesus told Satan to leave him alone (Matthew 4:10), we can tell the author of self-conscious thoughts to leave us alone.

Last Saturday, good enough became good aplenty. God heard my plea, immediately came to my rescue, and helped me calmly and worshipfully complete the task at hand.  I couldn’t ask for more.

_________________________________

Have you ever felt self-conscious?  What helps you to overcome it?  Please share in the comment section below!

Notes:

* “Audience of One,” by Big Daddy Weave, 2002.

  • Kristen Armstrong quote from Work in Progress, 2009, p. 37.
  • Oswald Chambers quote from My Utmost for His Highest, 1935, p. 232.


Art & photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com (4).


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