Archive for May, 2023

John and me–1964 (?)

The third and last home of my childhood, the one we moved to when I was ten, is of course the one I remember best. With no effort at all I can conjure up the kitchen and imagine Mom at the sink, peeling potatoes for dinner, while I cut up veggies or fruit for a salad.

I can see Dad in the basement, working on his current carpentry project, and my younger brother John puttering with the wood scraps.

Surrounding us all–thanks to the speakers Dad had installed in every room–was the sweet and serene instrumental music of a nightly radio program called “Candlelight and Silver”.

Such memories provide clarity for a statement made by author and pastor Alexander Maclaren:

The memories of those evenings at home (as seen through rose-tinted glasses, I admit) help me understand: dwelling in God’s presence doesn’t mean constant awareness of him, any more than my family was constantly aware of the radio music.

We were occupied with other things and conversing with one another, yet influenced nonetheless by the beautiful and soothing melodies in the background.

But it wasn’t just the music that contributed to those peaceful times. It was the atmosphere of love. Mom and Dad were clearly devoted to one another.

And though disagreements certainly occurred, I don’t remember a single quarrel.

Between them they created a stable, supportive environment in which my brother and I could flourish.

(Had the opposite been true, and their relationship contentious, not even sweet melodies coming from the radio could have dispelled the resulting atmosphere of anger and tension.)

Similarly, our Heavenly Father’s presence is like sweet music because of the atmosphere of love he continually provides. After all:

Think of it: the Most High God of the universe is not just near; he is here. In this moment. With you. With me.

And we have the privilege of knowing him.

But wait! There’s more, and it’s even more incredible: This King of kings actually wants to dwell with us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” he declares with compassion. “I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”. [1]

So how do we train ourselves to hear that undercurrent of sweet Song?

We can start with daily scripture-reading and prayer, as well as weaving moments of worship and praise into our routines, so there’s never a day we aren’t in contact with God [2].

And what will be the result? Troubles will be made bearable, joys will be brightened, and a peaceful calm will permeate the atmosphere—even in the midst of busyness.

It’s true: “Dwelling [in the sweet music of God’s constant presence] is a little piece of heaven on earth”—Stephanie Bryant [3].

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Sovereign God! Thank you for singing over us your song of love, compassion, and faithfulness and gifting us with a little piece of heaven on earth.

Even when nothing else around us is good, the sweet music of your presence in the midst of deep pain is a good gift indeed [4].

And as we live in the undercurrent of your Song, may we learn to tune our hearts, our minds, our lives, to voice your melodies [5].

In the power of your name we pray, AMEN.

[1] Jeremiah 31:3

[2] See the previous blog post, Ten Ways to Keep Mindful of God.

[3] p. 367, A Moment to Breathe, Denise J. Hughes, ed.

[4] Aliza Lotta, Take Heart, p. 162, Grace P. Cho and Anna E. Rendell, ed.

[5] Douglas Kaine McKelvey, Every Moment Holy, p. 250.

Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; wwwpublicdomainpictures.com (Sabine Sauermaul); http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr (Faye Mozingo); http://www.pxhere.com.

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Sovereign Lord of Creation, who

Drapes morning mist across the hillsides,

Paints the dawn with ever-changing hues, and

Scatters sparkling crystals of dew on grass and flower,

I worship you with incredulous wonder.

Sovereign Lord of Salvation, who

Gave your precious Son, the King of kings,

To die a cruel, criminal’s death for my sin, and

Provide the way of eternal life,

I worship you with overflowing gratitude.

Sovereign Lord, who

Now considers me righteous,

Making possible an intimate relationship with you, and

Granting perfect peace and effervescent joy,

I worship you with a humbled spirit.

(Detail from The Return of the Prodigal Son

by Rembrandt)

Sovereign Lord of Affection, who

Mercifully withholds the punishment I deserve,

Graciously bestows blessings I have not earned, and

Carries me close to your heart,

I worship you with overwhelming love.

Sovereign Lord of Revelation, who

Gave us your timeless, trustworthy Word, that

Offers infallible wisdom, inspired instruction, and

Encouraging promises to lead us and lift us,

I want to worship you with my obedience.

Sovereign Lord of Transformation, who

Actively pursues my best interest,

To mold me into the image of Jesus

With ever-increasing splendor,

I want to worship you with my submission.

Sovereign Lord of Distinction,

There is no one like you.

Your greatness is beyond human comprehension.

I stand in awe of your splendor and majesty, and

I worship you with all that is within me.

(Revelation 17:14; Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 3:20; Romans 14:17; Micah 7:18; John 1:16; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 119:160, 130, 50; Romans 8:26-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 145:1-5.)

Photo and art credits: http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.creazilla.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com.  

(Reblogged from June 18, 2015 while we enjoy another visit from our younger son and daughter-in-love.)

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Discouragement bombards us from every direction—from disheartening newscasts to difficult neighbors, from incompetent coworkers to family frustrations.

Secular sources offer strategies like these to combat despair:

  • Let go of anger and accept people as they are. (Easier said than done!)
  • Stand up straight—good posture helps. (Help, perhaps. Absolute remedy? Seems doubtful.)
  • Learn something new; do something fun! (And when the distraction is over, what then?)

An anonymous psalmist offers us this God-inspired example instead:

Can you affirm that our sovereign God is a mighty, majestic, and miracle-working God?

If so, you’ll agree with this assertion:

“As long as our eyes are on God’s majesty

there is a bounce in our step!”

–Max Lucado [1]

Look up majesty in a thesaurus and you’ll find such awe-inspiring synonyms as magnificence, glory, awesomeness, and superbness.

But how can we keep our eyes on the majesty of a God who’s invisible?

We can see its manifestations–they’re all around us.

For example:

We See God’s Majesty in Creation

While reading on the deck one afternoon, a house wren landed at one end of the rail, then dashed across its length before pausing and flying away. Never would I have expected such a small bird to run so fast. You’d think she had wheels, not legs!

And I marveled at this work of God: a small, nondescript bird with the extraordinary gift of great speed.

We See God’s Majesty in Circumstances

H. asked if I’d like to join her for a church-sponsored concert that she knew we’d both enjoy. I purchased my ticket online, only to learn later the transaction hadn’t completed, even though the last page on the website announced a successful purchase. The ticket was never emailed.

Kicking myself for not taking a screen shot, I contacted the credit card company, but there was no record of the payment yet. My husband urged me to attend the concert anyway. Upon arrival we learned there’d been a problem with the website. They graciously invited those of us without tickets to attend free of charge!

We See God’s Majesty in Scripture

Not long ago I let myself slip into a cesspool of self-pity while cleaning the house—a task I deplore. Suddenly God broke through my negativity and redirected my thoughts with this gem of advice: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

He reminded me why I was cleaning. I could rejoice that our younger son and daughter-in-love were coming to visit. And I prayed, “Help me practice gratitude, Father, and enjoy your company—even as I clean.”

(Please revive my attitudes also, Lord!)

We See God’s Majesty in Jesus

No one is as glorious and majestic as our righteous King! And yet he concerns himself with us.

He is:

Our Priest to atone

Our fountain to cleanse

Our Intercessor to plead

Our Foundation to support

Our Counselor to advise

Our Prophet to teach

Our Sun to enlighten

Our Bread to nourish

Our Father to provide

Our Shepherd to protect

Our Emmanuel to attend

Our Peace to comfort

Our Lord of glory to reign![2]

May such truths as these help to dispel discouragement and put a bounce in our step–today and always!

What truths would you add to this starter-list? Please share in the comments!

[1] Grace for the Moment, 289.

[2] V. 1: Hebrews 2:17; Zechariah 13:1; Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 3:11. V. 2: Isaiah 9:6; Deuteronomy 18:15; Malachi 4:2; John 6:35. V. 3: Isaiah 9:6; John 10:11; Matthew 1:22-23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 2:8.

Art & photo credits: http://www.pexels.com, Yan Krukau; http://www.canva.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net, Sheila Brown; http://www.canva.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net, Lynn Greyling; http://www.wallpaperflare.com.

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Dr. Matthew Keith lifted the tumbler to his nose and sniffed its contents.

“Oh—that smells quite good,” Keith announced, placing the glass of chloroform back on the dining table. “How long before it takes effect?”

“Just a minute or two, I expect,” replied his friend, Dr. James Simpson.

Sure enough, Keith soon slumped to the floor, dead asleep.

“I’m next!” exclaimed Simpson to another friend, Dr. George Duncan, while grabbing the tumbler and taking a whiff of the chloroform.

Duncan followed suit and soon all three were fast asleep.

Such experiments were common in the Simpson home. Currently he and his friends were looking for a drug that could safely ease the pain of surgery, medical procedures, and childbirth.

At the time (1847), Simpson not only practiced obstetrics (called midwifery in those days), he was also Professor of Midwifery at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

No one would have expected such a respectable position for the seventh son of a baker. But the family somehow found the resources to send the whip-smart, fourteen-year-old James to university. By age 21, he’d graduated with honors and become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh.

James Young Simpson, 1848

Success as an obstetrician came quickly, and Simpson married his sweetheart. He should have been happy and fulfilled; he was not. Simpson later explained: “I was living without God in the world.” He well knew about God and Jesus, because his mother had been a devout Christian.

One night he saw himself “standing on the brink of ruin, deserving nothing but hell’s destruction” because of his many sins. But he also saw Jesus his Substitute, dying on a cross for him. Simpson wept and claimed Jesus as his Savior [1].

The night of the chloroform experiment, Simpson had been practicing obstetrics for fifteen years. He desperately desired to find a drug capable of reducing his patients’ pain.

This new compound had come from the famous chemist, Lyon Playfair. His assistant had been conducting experiments with acetone and chlorine that showed great promise as a superior anesthetic to ether. Chloroform took effect more quickly, was affordable, easy to store and transport. It wasn’t noxious or flammable.

Lyon Playfair

Simpson wanted to try the new compound right there in Playfair’s shop. But the chemist insisted they administer doses to two rabbits first. The animals quickly fell asleep and awoke a while later, seemingly unharmed.  The next morning, however, they were dead.

Undeterred, Simpson purchased the compound so he and his colleagues, Keith and Duncan, could try the chloroform for themselves—just small doses that surely couldn’t cause harm to a grown man. At least that must be what they told themselves.

Thankfully the experiment succeeded. In addition, none of them experienced nausea or a headache—common side-effects of ether. They knew then that chloroform would transform the care that doctors could provide. 

Simpson was soon using it as a general anesthetic for his obstetric patients. That same year, 1847, he published a paper, “Account of a New Anesthetic Agent.”

Doctors all over Europe began alleviating their patients’ pain with chloroform, especially after Dr. John Snow gave controlled doses to Queen Victoria for the birth of Leopold in 1853. She described its effect as “soothing, quieting, and delightful beyond measure [2] .”

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and children, ca. 1855

Dr. Simpson’s research procured him a place in medical history. He was knighted and his coat of arms read, Victo dolore, “Pain conquered.”

But he had more conquests to pursue. Simpson turned his attention to the problem of infection, rampant in hospitals. He argued that if medical personnel washed their hands in chlorine before every examination, and instruments were sterilized, the spread of infection could be reduced [3].

Simpson also conducted research on the impacts of overcrowding and other practices in hospitals which raised mortality rates. He proposed improved hospital design, increased ventilation, and better management strategies. His suggestions met with opposition, but over time many of Simpson’s ideas were adopted. [4]

Victoria Hospital, 1899

Throughout the decades of his career, Simpson’s faith in Christ remained a life-changing influence.

In 1866, he wrote to his dear friend, Dr. Joseph Robertson: “Jesus has suffered all for us and done all, if we only trust Him in all . . . I know that you and I place all hopes and certainties indeed upon the same immutable foundation [5].

Simpson was once asked, “What do you consider your greatest discovery?”

His reply undoubtedly surprised many:

“My greatest discovery, which I made one Christmas Day, is that Christ is able to save to the uttermost any man who implicitly trusts Him [6].”


[1] https://gospelhallaudio.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Sir-James-Simpson.pdf

[2] https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/the-right-chemistry-the-history-of-chloroform

[3] https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/heritage/college-history/james-young-simpson

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Other sources:




James Simpson


Photo credits: 1. http://www.commons.wikimedia.org. 2. James Young Simpson, 1848 (http:11//creative commons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). 3. Lyon Playfair (V0027024 Lyon Playfair. Photograph by Lock & Whitfield, Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@http://wellcomeimages.org. 4 & 5. http://www.lookandlearn.com. 6. http://www.picryl.com. 7. rawpixel.com

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